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Calorie Postings Don’t Guarantee Healthier Choices

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By Rachel Stockton

It’s been 14 months since the law requiring New York City fast food chains to post the calorie content of each of their offerings on their menu boards.

Several professors from New York University and Yale decided to see if the postings made much of a difference in what consumers were ordering. Four chains were analyzed: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The researchers went to areas of the city where obesity and diabetes are at their highest.

For part of the study, they asked consumer questions, such as "did you notice the postings," and if the answer was affirmative, they then asked them if the information made them order something healthier. 28% of those who said they noticed the postings said that they had a positive influence on their ordering.

However, after checking customer receipts (they were paid $2.00 for these), the team discovered that in comparison to receipts before the law went into affect, there was not much of a difference in the caloric density of what customers ordered.

As for the discrepancy, the team thought that perhaps when people thought about the fact that they should probably choose healthier fare, they didn’t do it. But, in their minds they’d "done something about it" by merely pondering whether they should or not.

While calorie counting isn’t particularly appealing to most people, it’s one way to reintroduce "mindfulness" to our eating habits. Weight Watcher’s knows this, so their system modifies calorie counting to make it as easy as possible. Thus, the point system was born; as a general rule, every 50-75 calories equal 1 point.

It’s possible that the longer the postings remain available, the more often people will make better choices. After all, this weight loss thing is a process, not a destination.

(Send your news to [email protected], Foodconsumer.org is part of the Infoplus.com ™ news and information network)

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