A Simple Hack to Improve Nutrition Labels?

restaurant calorie labelsTake a look at the above options for providing calorie information at restaurants. Which would be the most effective in your opinion?

That’s exactly what researchers at the University of North Carolina wanted to find out. They queried 800 students and learned that option 3, which presents not just the calories but also the distance required to walk them off, was most effective.

Starting in 2014, all chain restaurants will be required to post calorie information on their menus / billboards. It will be a simple calorie value per portion served. The efficacy of the label is being debated in places such as New York City, where calorie labeling got started 5 years ago.

Should chains include the “mileage per meal” information for each menu item?

  • Steve

    I have mixed feelings about this. If it gets people to be more careful about what they eat I’ll support it, but it also suggests exercise may not be useful. While exercise is not the fastest way to weight loss, it does have many positive benefits. I would hope labels like this would not let people draw the conclusion exercise is futile.

  • Leelee

    That can be misleading because the amount of calories that you burn while exercising varies so much with the differences of body types. I sill like the one with the miles though.

  • Jen

    I don’t think the results of a study in which college students were asked about this topic are really relevant to the rest of the country. One of the biggest problems with calorie labeling on menus is that people don’t understand them, and don’t understand how much they should eat in a single meal or in an entire day. So what a college student would do with that information is interesting but can’t be extrapolated to the general population, which is, on average, much less educated.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Good point, but the whole point of the experiment was to see if there a better way to help people visualize calorie information.

  • Jay

    This is one of the best ideas I have seen. Lets wake up America.

  • EVIL food scientist

    Yeah, but you burn 2000~ish calories per day just being alive. So, your 250 calorie burger is essentially 1/8th of the day, or 3 hours.

    OR, I guess you can have your burger, then go running.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Or not have a burger

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  • Carol H.

    Wow! Where did they find a 250-calorie burger?? The typical beef patty alone is 250, and the bun another 180-300. Then there are the condiments, cheese, etc. for a total of 500-900 calories.

    California was the first state to pass a menu labeling law (for chains with 20+ locations). Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, NJ and TN have also.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      maybe it was the kids size option?

      • Carol H.

        That would be about 400 cal … depends on the restaurant (i.e., size of the portion), of course.

  • Brian Klein

    I think there is still too much of a focus on calories and the amount of exercise it takes to burn them off and not enough discussion about nutrient denisity. One reason I don’t like this is because while a burger is relatively nutrient dense, a bun is not, and people will focus on getting the amount of exercise needed to burn the 250 calories instead of thinking about the nutrient density of the items eaten. 250 calories of nutrient dense food is much better than 250 calories of 0 density.

    • http://www.facebook.com/laura.witherup Laura Witherup


  • G4genn

    I think it’s a great idea. Most people don’t even realize how many calories are in their food and make bad decisions based on lack of information. (Would you like to supersize your meal, for 400 calories more?). Once consumers are more conscious, then you can start taking about nutrition and nutritious density.

    When you go to subway thinking you are making a smart meal choice, then see that your bun is 400 calories, your mayo another 75, you start realizing quickly what goes into your mouth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Fistukm Mayan Orgel

    Ridiculous! This tactic is very misleading. Calorie counting, at least exclusively, is irrelevant as a health measurement. What restaurants should do is provide ingredient lists as this allows for more informed decisions. I would also expect it to be easier for a restaurant to provide a list of ingredients, than it would be for them to analyze the food to figure out a calorie count

    A cup of pure water and a cup of diet soda both have zero calories. The first is hydrating, detoxifying, healthy. The latter causes obesity, diabetes, neurological & behavioral problems, etc., it is toxic and unhealthy.

    Your liver, a truly awesome organ, is very efficient at detoxifying. However, there is limit to matter and the liver is no exception. We overload our liver to such an extent that we prevent it from doing it’s job. To defend itself from the myriad of toxins we consume, our body protects itself – it isolates the toxins by surrounding them with fat cells. Toxins have zero calories, yet still cause obesity. So even if you have no regard for health, and all you care about is your weight, there are still other things for you to consider – even before you consider calories!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      You make some good point Mayan. Hopefully one day we’ll get to ingredient lists being published. There are some issues though: 1) secret recipes 2) not enough room on a menu 3) too complicated for most people. Perhaps the solution should be mandating the Fooducate Grade :-) The calorie label, with all its limitations, is still better than no nutrition info at all.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Fistukm Mayan Orgel

        I don’t think its better than nothing. Calorie counting is a misleading qualifier of health. The whole food industry is based on misleading customers in such ways. The soft drink companies use this tactic – resulting in increasing cases of childhood diabetes and obesity. It’s better not to have any labeling than to have exclusively calorie labeling. This is ESPECIALLY true for laypeople.

        1. Listing ingredients does not give away recipes – it does not give away proportions or procedures. 2. The ingredient list does not have to be on the menu itself. It could be an insert or provided by request. 3. What’s complicated? If you’re consulting the ingredient list, chances are you know what to look for. a general rule can be applied – if you don’t know what an ingredient is and you value your health, don’t eat it. If you don’t care either way, don’t bother reading the list!

        • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

          You are making perfect the enemy of good. Calories still matter, even if focus on them has resulted in “diet” foods with artificial ingredients. Calorie counts are a good enough first step.

          • http://www.facebook.com/Fistukm Mayan Orgel

            I agree it’s good, just not as an exclusive measure. As an exclusive measure it is bad. I provided you with reasoning as to my statements, you have not provided reasons for your claim

  • HawkJRL

    I think it is a bad idea, since there is such a range in how many calories one can burn. The information won’t be accurate for a small adult, who will actually burn less calories than what would be listed.

  • Christina D

    Chains should include the mileage per meal information because it will get the people to think about their food more. People will realize how much work they have to do just to work off a regular burger. To some, the calorie intake means nothing