How do we fight obesity? That's the question being asked just about everywhere these days and one popular idea is to have a little more transparency in the foods we're eating. It makes sense to have calorie information posted on menus so we have a clear idea of what we're actually getting when we order that cheeseburger as opposed to that grilled chicken salad.
Now, the question is, is this really working? In some cases, it's not, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity. In the study, researchers surveyed 427 parents and teens at fast food restaurants in both New York City and Newark before and after mandatory labeling began. They found that only 9% of teens and 28% of adults said the calorie information influenced their choices. Even worse, researchers found there was no change in the number of calories purchased by either group after labeling went into affect.
In fact, they found that teens purchased about 725 calories while parents purchased about 600 calories for their children and that most of the teenagers surveyed underestimated the amount of calories they had purchased, some by up to 466 calories.
So, what does this mean? As the researchers suggest, calorie labels aren't going to be enough to influence obesity in a large scale way, but does that mean it's completely useless? I know that, for health-conscious people, knowing the calories they're getting is important information, but what about people who aren't as health-conscious? From this rather small survey, we can see that some people didn't even notice the calorie information and that only a small number who did actually used that information to make different choices, which is disappointing. Maybe we wouldn't expect teens to worry as much about eating healthy, but we do want parents to make better choices for their kids.
I'm curious about what you think. Is putting calorie information at restaurants a good idea? Does that kind of information influence your choices? Are there people who just don't think about the number of calories they're eating, no matter what information is available? Leave a comment and tell us what you think about calorie labeling.