Posted by: Benedict Lam7 MAY 2013
Although more restaurants are displaying calorie information on menus, most studies show that this has little impact on reducing the calorie content ordered and consumed. So a new angle to encourage reduced calorie intake in restaurants is being explored by those in the nutrition field: displaying on the menu the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories.
Researchers from Texas Christian University conducted a study with 300 men and women aged 18–30 years. The candidates were assigned to a menu without calorie labels, a menu with calorie labels or a menu with labels for the minutes of brisk walking required to burn food calories. All the menus contained the same food and beverage options.
Those who were given the menu displaying the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories ordered and consumed fewer calories than those who were given the menu without calorie labels. Interestingly, there was no difference between the menu with calorie labels and the menu without calorie labels in terms of the number of calories ordered and consumed.
Meena Shah, senior researcher, said that, although the study suggests there are benefits to displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women, it would not be possible to generalise these results to a population over the age of 30, and further investigation will be required for the other age groups.
Certainly, if I had been informed I would have to walk briskly for a few hours to burn off a cheeseburger I would think twice about ordering it, if there were something else on the menu that would not require that amount of exercise to burn it off. Restaurant owners may not think this is a good idea but it would certainly take the guess work out of calculating calories and the amount of exercise required after a meal out. Perhaps this type of information could even appear on food labels in shops and supermarkets as well.