Menus That List Calories in Food At Chain Restaurants Lead to Diners Eating A Bit Less

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You've seen those menus listing calories in food at chain restaurants - Do they lead people to eat less?

A study published May 2013 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests these calorie counts have a small but promising effect on reducing the number of calories a person eats, at least in the case of those who eat in taco shops and those who buy beverages from coffee shops.  The effect was less with people who go to burger joints and sandwich delis. Men's calorie intake was also less affected by the labelling information than women's.

Researchers studied the eating habits of diners during the 18 months after new regulations requiring calorie info on menus at chain restaurants came into effect. They found the menus promoted an overall higher awareness among people about the number of calories they consumed, even if the decline in calorie intake was small.

It was thought that the decline in calorie consumption because of the menus worked best in cases where "customization" of orders was available. For example, patrons could decide to hold the sour cream or quacamole on a taco order; or opt for the skim milk, as opposed to full cream, for a latte. Women appeared to reduce their calorie intake more than men especially in coffee shops.

The researchers noted that, with 130 million people in the US eating out daily and with an estimated 4.8 meals per week  and a third of total estimated calories per day coming from restaurant meals, small changes in calorie consumption may have  a significant effect on the state of the nation's waist line and its health.

The info on this study was provided by Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health.

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