Do You Care for Calorie Counting?

A report in the US shows that putting calorie information on menus only encourages healthy eating in a limited way.

Customers were interviewed by researchers before and after a law was passed in 2008, forcing restaurants to display nutritional information in New York.

The study by the New York Health Department revealed that 1 in 6 people used the information, with most reducing their food intake. At KFC, a sandwich store Au Bon Pain and McDonalds saw customers cut down their calories.

However, overall there was no reduction in the calorie intake of more than 8,000 customers and Subway actually saw an increase in calorie intake of 17.8%.

KFC added grilled chicken to their menu which cut the calories compared to their fried chicken by 9% and Au Bon Pain offered a lower calorie portions menu, which shows that having healthier food on offer appeared to play a big part in the outcomes. On the other hand, Subway added a $5 foot long sub, to appeal to people who were strapped for cash, which 3 out of 4 customers in the study were buying.

The New York Health Department’s report was published online in the British Medical Journal, explains that customers who bought lower calorie meals were the ones who were aware of the calorie information on the menu. These people bought food with around 100 fewer calories than meals chosen by other customers overall.

The results come as a similar scheme are being introduced in the UK.

So far, a total of 32 companies have signed up to displaying nutritional information in UK outlets, including McDonalds, KFC, Yo! Sushi and Pizza Hut, as part of the “responsibility deal” set out by the government earlier this year. This move is completely a voluntary agreement.

Researchers explain that calorie labelling gives restaurants, fast food chains and other eateries with restaurant insurance quotes, an incentive to offer healthier foods. For example, Starbucks switched from wholemilk to 2% fat as standard. Dr. Susan Jebb, from the MRC Human Nutrition Research Centre in Cambridge explains that, “Calorie labelling will help consumers make an informed choice about what they eat, but sustained improvements in the nation’s diet will require a transformation of the food supply too”.

Most of us at QuoteSearcher are happy to see calories displayed in restaurants, we do sometimes wonder about the calories when we’re eating cheesy burgers! Most nutritional information can be found online, but this definitely makes it easier to find out about the nitty gritty numbers!

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