A Moment of Science

Putting Calories on the Menu

Will people eat less if restaurants display calories on the menu?

starbucks_calories

Photo: btchcakesny (flickr)

In 2008, a local law in New York required Starbucks to display the calorie content of all menu items.

New health care legislation, signed in March 2010 includes a provision that will require restaurant chains to literally put calories on the menu. How will making this information available on the menu affect American’s appetites?

Would You Like 380 Calories with That Shake?

Calorie information is sometimes provided by restaurants, especially fast food chains, but it is often way at the bottom in teeny, tiny print. The new law requires calorie info to be just as obvious as the price!

This could have a huge impact on how we look at our dining experience. A rich pasta dish that you used to be your favorite may not seem as appealing when you realize its calorie content is supposed to be enough to feed six adults.

Extra Whip Cream, No Muffin

This legislation is not the first of its kind. A local law was enacted in 2008 required Starbucks to post their calorie content of their coffee beverages, baked goods, and all other menu items. So what happened?

A study looked at over 100 million transactions that occurred before and after the new law. The results showed that people’s drink choices mostly stated the same, but that overall their food-calorie consumption decreased by 14 percent.

These scientists predict that the 2010 legislation will have an even greater impact. They also believe that it’s impact will affect different types of restaurants in different ways.

Ignorance is Bliss?

This legislation requires restaurants to make the change by 2011, so enjoy your ignorance while you can! Ignorance may be bliss, but could knowing calorie content of restaurant foods help fight obesity? Will it encourage restaurants to prepare their food in healthier ways?

We will have to eat and see. I mean, wait and see!

Read More:

  • Will People Eat Less When Calories are Posted on Menus? (LiveScience)
  • Tasty and Lite: Chef’s Say Possible, but Hard to Tell (LiveScience)

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Molly Plunkett

is a journalism student at Indiana University and an online producer for A Moment of Science. She is originally from Wheaton, IL.

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