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Study: An Eating Out Trick to Help You Order Less

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  May 16, 2013 10:54 AM

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Source: NEJM
If you grab your breakfast from a drive-thru, order lunch at a local sandwich shop, and/or dine out for dinner on a regular basis, please read on. 

New research suggests that Americans are consuming approximately 35 percent of their daily calories chowing down at these types of eateries.  With Americans’ love of eating out and restaurant portions expanding, along with our waistlines, the Affordable Care Act has required that chain food establishments with 20 or more locations begin disclosing nutrition information for their standard menu items.   Research has shown that providing consumers with calorie information upfront can alter their menu choices and aid them in ordering lower calorie options.  But is there an even more effective way to change eating habits?

In a recent editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have proposed not only displaying calories on the menu but also posting the physical-activity equivalents that would be needed to burn off the amount of calories in the food item.  (See above illustration.)  Research supports this clever idea.  In a study of over 800 individuals that was published in the journal, Appetite, researchers uncovered that showing folks a menu with both the calories and the number of miles they needed to walk in order to burn those calories was more effective in influencing lower calorie meal selections than just showing the calories alone.

To get an idea of what this would look like, here are some selections from local eateries.  The BOLD items are leaner choices.

Would displaying the calories along with the physical-activity equivalents influence your food choices more than just viewing the calories?  Please post your thoughts below. 

                                   Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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