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Diners Respond to Menus Listing Meal-Calories' Exercise Toll

In an effort to encourage consumers to make healthier food choices, the larger U.S. restaurant chains are required by law to display calorie information about items on their menus. However, most studies show that providing those numbers does not actually persuade many diners to order lower-calorie meals.

So, researchers at Texas Christian University tried a different approach. They divided 300 young adults into three groups and gave each a menu with the same food and beverage choices - burgers, chicken sandwiches, salad, fries, desserts, soda and water. One menu had calorie labels, the second menu had none, and the third listed the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn each of the food item's calories.

Those ordering from the third menu - the one listing exercise information - chose food with fewer calories than did the consumers who saw just calorie counts or no labels. There was no difference in the number of calories ordered and consumed by the first two groups.

Senior researcher Meena Shah said she and fellow researcher Ashlei James will investigate how displaying exercise minutes on a menu affects an older, more diverse group of consumers. They presented the results of their study at the Experimental Biology 2013 conference Tuesday in Boston.

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