Posted: Oct 10, 2013
Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced that they will introduce legislation requiring large chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. This is a good start, as most are unaware of how many calories their favourite restaurant meal contains. However, stating that a meal contains 800 calories is pretty much meaningless without knowing that the average male needs 2000-2500 calories per day and females require 1400-1800. It’s like saying that sweater you want costs $300.00 without knowing how much money you have to spend. If it results in one choosing something with fewer calories, that is wonderful. But the research is clear: calorie information alone doesn’t result in people changing what they order.
Displaying how long it would take to burn those calories via exercise appears to result in fewer calories consumed according to this study. As the authors state: it was “eye-opening” for study participants to learn that two hours of brisk walking is required to burn off a quarter-pounder. Returning to the sweater analogy, realizing that you would have to work for x number of hours in order to earn enough to pay for the sweater is far more meaningful than simply looking at the price tag.
As Dr. Sharma points out in his post on the same subject, a calorie literacy campaign may well be in order. I agree wholeheartedly as without meaningful context, the information will not be nearly as effective as the government and health officials hope.