Would you still order a quarter-pound double cheeseburger if you knew it would take a brisk two-hour walk to burn it off?
A new study says you wouldn’t.
The study, which was presented at the 2013 Experimental Biology meeting in Boston, suggests that listing the amount of exercise it would take to burn off a meal is the best strategy to deter people from ordering calorie-dense meals.
Study participants were randomly assigned to order from one of three menus: One without calories listed, one with calories listed and one that listed how many minutes of brisk walking it would take to burn off their meal.
They ordered and ate fewer calories when they knew how many minutes of walking it would take to burn them off.
Interestingly, whether or not calories were listed didn’t change how much people ate and ordered.
That’s too bad, because listing calories is the strategy Canadian health officials are currently considering to encourage healthier eating.
It’s not mandatory in Canada to disclose calorie and sodium counts on menus, but Toronto is fighting to be the first city in Canada to force chain restaurants to do so.
Should we be fighting to list the amount of exercise that would be needed to burn off restaurant meals instead?
"We need a more effective strategy to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from restaurant menus," senior researcher Dr. Meena Shah said in a press release.
If this is the most effective strategy, maybe it’s the one we should be implementing.
What do you think? Should Canadian restaurants list calorie and sodium counts, exercise times, or both?
-Katharine Watts, associate web editor