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Do menu labels really help control total calories?

January 5th, 2010

According to this recent article from Reuters Health menus with calorie information causes people to eat fewer calories. The article references this recent study from Yale. In this study, they randomly divided 303 people into three menu groups: 1) no calorie information, 2) calorie information, and 3) calorie plus recommended daily total (2,000 calories/day) and tracked their calorie intake for a single day. They concluded that “Calorie labels on restaurant menus impacted food choices and intake; adding a recommended daily caloric requirement label increased this effect, suggesting menu label legislation should require such a label.” Although, they acknowledge that this is a research setting, it’s not clear how these results would translate into the real-world given the small sample size and that they only tracked people for a single day. The results do not appear particularly compelling to warrant a change in the law. In my experience, usually the large population diversity will simply wash out small differences between different groups (250 few calories in the group with calorie plus daily total – that’s less than two Oreo cookies!).

A bigger question is what if you don’t care about tracking calories, because you are following the Atkins diet and instead need to track carbohydrates? What if you have high blood pressure and need to cut out excess sodium? What if you are diabetic and care about the sugar content? Even if the menu labels prove to be a good idea, they won’t contain all of the information that people might want to see.

That’s where we think PhotoCalorie can help. You can take a “fake” picture and enter the description of what you are thinking about eating and see the basic nutrition content for that meal. If you decide not to eat the food after learning the facts, then you can always delete it from your journal.

 

Give us some feedback – do you think menu labels would change what you eat?

menu labels