A study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that no matter how much calorie information is on a menu, people may still choose the food they like, and not what’s supposed to be healthier.
The researchers wanted to find out if people would choose a lower-calorie item if they were given more information to help put calorie counts in context. The researchers recruited 1,121 adult participants, ages 18–89, from two New York City McDonald’s restaurants at lunchtime.
At both restaurants, calorie counts were prominently displayed. Prior to ordering, one group received a sheet of paper with the recommended calories for a single meal (650 calories for women; 800 calories for men); a second group received information about recommended calories for a day (2,000 calories for women; 2,400 for men); and a third group received no instructions.
The researchers found the presence of additional information about recommendations for meal or daily eating had no impact on food choice. A majority of men and women ate more than the recommended intake for a meal—and neither type of information had an impact on the number of calories consumed, compared to the group with no information. Notable, the study found no difference between overweight and healthy-weight participants in their food choice behaviors.
It should be noted that one of the study’s limitations is that the research failed to examine those who used the calorie counts and did eat less.