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Energy Menu-Labeling Strategy Could Be a Breakthrough

by Sandy Todd Webster on May 27, 2014

Food for Thought

If you knew before ordering the double cheeseburger and fries that it would require about 2 1⁄2 hours of brisk walking at 5–6 miles per hour to burn them off, would you think twice?

Menu labeling that zeroes in on energy information—specifically, how much physical energy needs to be expended to balance the food ordered—may be a key to unlocking better choices by young adults, according to a study reported in the February 27 online edition of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Scientists set out to determine the effect of lunch menu labels displaying the kilocalorie content of food items versus labels showing the exercise equivalent of energy ordered and consumed. Subjects were randomized to a menu with no labels; a menu with kcal labels showing the energy content of the food; or a menu with exercise labels displaying the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn the food energy.

Three hundred subjects aged 21.9–24.2 (55.7% female; 77.3% college students) ordered and consumed foods and beverages for lunch from the menu to which they were assigned in a university dining area. Those in the exercise-label group ordered and consumed significantly less food than the no-label group, whereas those in the kcal-label group did not. There was no difference in postlunch energy intake by menu type.

Study authors concluded that “the menu with exercise-labels resulted in less energy ordered and consumed, and this did not lead to greater energy consumption post lunch.”

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.