Menu calorie counts work, says CDC survey

CDC calories menu eating out
When calorie information is available, people make healthier choices, according to a new study.
Credit: Albert Yee

New Yorkers may have complained bitterly about former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s food-related legislation. But a new survey shows that they are leading the country in making use of the calorie counts on restaurant menus to guide our food decisions.

More than half of the 118,013 respondents said that when calorie information was available on restaurant menus, it helped them decide what to order.

The average for the 17 states surveyed was 57.3 percent. New York (61.3 percent) had the highest proportion of menu label users, followed by Hawaii (60.2 percent); Montana’s was the lowest (48.7 percent). In every state, women were more likely to check the nutrition information than men. The use of menu labels also varied by age and ethnicity.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed self-reported menu label usage using data from a 2012 behavioral survey that included these 17 states: Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee.

The study’s authors encouraged local-level awareness and education campaigns to further increase use of the additional menu information. By federal law passed in 2010, only restaurants with 20 locations or more must list calorie information on their menus. But regulations are still in the works to implement the law.

A 2009 study found that many people underestimate the caloric content of restaurant dishes; other studies have shown that customers who saw calorie information on menus ordered items with 100-140 fewer calories.

Follow Eva Kis on Twitter @thisiskis or email eva.kis@metro.us. 



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