Students at the University of Waterloo will soon have an edge on the rest of us when they grab lunch at the school’s food court.

They’ll know, from just a quick glance at the menu, whether the healthy-looking salad will do more harm to their waistlines than the meat-covered pizza.

Unless policy-makers make a sudden move, the students will be the only ones in Canada to see a restaurant list with an item’s calorie content alongside its price tag.

It’s all part of a new study to test whether posting nutrition information on menus affects the food choices of students and faculty and helps them make healthier selections.

The study, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, is the first of its kind in Canada.

“This is potentially a high-profile policy issue,” said the study’s lead researcher David Hammond, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo.

“The reality is Canadians are eating more and more outside the home and really don’t know anything about what they’re eating ... It’s difficult when you can have coffee products that either have 20 calories or up to 800 calories.”

Many fast-food chains in Canada voluntarily provide nutrition information either on their company websites or in a brochure at the restaurant. Consumers have to make an effort to find out Tim Hortons’ BLT sandwich has 420 calories, for example, or McDonald’s Caesar salad with crispy chicken has 670 calories.

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