Study States Calorie Listings at Fast Food Restaurants Cause Caloric Increase

french friesA Carnegie Mellon University study has determined that calorie listings at fast-food restaurants have not decreased the caloric consumption of consumers.  1,121 adults provided receipts and completed surveys upon exiting McDonald’s locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, N.Y.  Calorie listings have become common in the past year in hopes of curbing the obesity epidemic.

Policy makers hoped the move would aid in the consumers making better choices.  They believed that armed with nutritional information a regular consumer would ultimately make the better decision.  McDonalds lists the calories of each food/beverage item.  It also lists a recommended daily consumption amount.  The study leader thinks many people thought because their sandwich was less than the recommended amount they could “wiggle” in some sides (i.e. French fries and soda drinks).  They did so without considering the fact those sides are almost calorically rich as the actual sandwich. 

1/3 of the responders stated they consumed more than 1,000 calories for their one meal. The study states:  “Recommendations can provide a false sense of staying within the calorie allowance, which could license larger purchases and allow consumers to ignore the calorie load of other components of the meal.”

I think the study ignores the responders’ caloric choices the rest of the day.  It doesn’t seem like they followed up and asked how much the responders’ consumed in the course of the day.  It is very possible they made better choices during the rest of the day.  It is also possible that lunch is the largest portion of their day and therefore they consumed more calories than what McDonald’s recommends.

I think calorie listings are a great idea.  I know many people who have and continue to make “healthier” choices when at a fast-food restaurant.  Last month I visited Panera Bread.  I hadn’t been there in a long time and was surprised to see they also list the calories of their meals.  My favorite sandwich is the Sierra Turkey.  I thought I was making a great choice.  How can you go wrong with a turkey sandwich?  At least that’s what I thought.  I was shocked to learn my sandwich was 920 calories!  I decided to purchase a Mediterranean Chicken on Flat-bread that was only about 300 calories.

Do calorie listings help everyone?  No.

Will many people ignore them?  Yes.

But, are there some people who will make a better choice? Yes.

And that’s really all that matters.

Some people have suggested that restaurants should provide incentives for people to choose healthier menu items; such as providing a discount for a combo meal that includes water or a diet drink.  I don’t think restaurants should be forced to provide discounts.  I don’t think the government can force them unless they subsidize it (of which I wouldn’t support).  The reason why many restaurants won’t do this is because they have no incentive to do so.

The reality is that many business owners only care about the bottom line.  They really don’t care what choices you make.  They only care that you purchase their items.

What do you think of the study?

Do you think calorie listings work?  Have you made a “healthier” decision because of one?


Twitter: @adrakontaidis & @talkrealdebate


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About adrakontaidis

A conservative who doesn't pander to the GOP.

9 responses to “Study States Calorie Listings at Fast Food Restaurants Cause Caloric Increase”

  1. promiscuouswriter says :

    I agree. We look at them and think, “Oh that’s not as bad as I thought.”

    • realtalkrealdebate says :

      I think that’s definitely the case for many, but I’ve received many responses through social media that many do in fact take info into consideration and ultimately make a better choice.

  2. JF Owen says :

    OK, first the study is full of crap. I work with statistics for a living and, given enough time and motivation, I can prove to you without any room for doubt that ice cream can cure the common cold.

    Now, on to the more important question; that being whether the calorie information should be there to begin with. I vote “NO”.

    “Why?”, you ask.

    “Because it ruins my enjoyment of life.” I answer unapologetically. As proof I offer up the following true experience.

    Two weeks ago I stopped in to a Great Clips to get my hair cut. Turns out that I had a twenty minute wait. Since there was a McDonalds just across the street, I made a management decision to go get a large vanilla milkshake. When I walked in, there, staring me in the face, was the menu with the calorie counts. A quick look showed the count on my preferred beverage, said large vanilla milkshake, to be 800. “Crap!,” I thought.

    I paced, I looked and the menu again and then I paced some more. Finally I walked up to the counter and said through clinched teeth, “May I please have a large raspberry Smoothie, you know, the one that only has 300 calories and doesn’t have the whipped cream with a cherry on top?”

    So, my calorie count was down but I spent the rest of the day in a bad mood and craving a vanilla milkshake. That made my wife’s day unpleasant, my dog’s day unpleasant and it really didn’t do much for mine.

    If they’re going to put the calorie counts on the menu, then they should write them in a language and number system that I don’t understand.

    • realtalkrealdebate says :

      As funny as your story is I can argue you had a choice in the matter. You didn’t have to get the healthier choice. You could after all ignore the calories. You are a smart guy. You knew what you liked wasn’t good. I guess it made you feel guilty and thus ruined your day.

      I think many would benefit from the info.

      As for ice cream, I don’t think you even an excuse to eat it 🙂

  3. gardenaki says :

    I like having the calories listed on the menu at restaurants. I wish that all restaurants were required to display calories on their websites or in their stores. It definitely has helped me lose weight to avoid foods that are high in calories. Of course we all have those days where we choose not to follow the calories and still eat something high in calories such as pizza or ice cream. In my opinion, once in a while it is okay to eat a “fatty” or not as healthy food item. You just have to know your limits. Showing the calories is more for awareness to the consumers and as a chance to offer an opportunity to choose the “healthier” food or drink item. You can always ignore the calories on the right side of the menu if you choose to. Nobody forces you to look at them or order the least caloric item.

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