Study States Calorie Listings at Fast Food Restaurants Cause Caloric Increase
A 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