Yes, Restaurant Nutrition Labeling Leads to Better Choices

Philadelphia Nutrition Label

OK, maybe “better choices” is not the most fitting word. Perhaps “less unhealthy choices” is a better term for most chain restaurant fare. A study published earlier this week by Drexel University School of Public Health shows that individuals make slightly improved choices in full service restaurants that include nutrition information as part of the menu.

Unlike fast food establishments that only show calorie information, Philadelphia restaurants that are a part of a national chain with 15 or more locations must also label fats, sodium, and carbs.

So how much better were the results at restaurants with nutrition labels?

People ordered dishes that had:

  • 151 fewer calories (7.5% of the daily recommended intake of 2000 calories)
  • 224 mg less sodium (10% of the daily max)
  • 3.7 grams less saturated fat (18% of the daily max)

The dishes ordered were still very high in calories, sodium, and saturated fat. Hence, slightly less unhealthy.

What’s interesting about this study is that it is the first one to show that nutrition labeling in restaurants actually works. Several other studies in the past showed no marked difference in purchase decisions between consumers who were exposed to nutrition labeling and those who were not.

The two differences in this study were the fact that sit-down restaurants were chosen, and that the information provided was more than just calories.

Question for you: should nutrition labeling in fast food chains include fat and sodium data in addition to calories? Or should we remove nutrition information altogether?


  • Jamesw

    Fast food has to have sodium on the sign/menu. Most of us have an easier time guessing calories than sodium. Also, it forces restaurants to offer low sodium choices to make more sales to people over 30. I work 60 hours a week and looking up sodium on a portable device is a pain and costs too much time.

  • Gregg5

    Good grief, label it all…. accurately! This small but important effort moves us from toxic darkness to a new dimly lited place. It is about putting incremental pressure on a huge, dangerous industry that is perfectlty capable of crushing any frontal assault but may place less effort into sweeping a small insurection aside.