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If Restaurant Menus Had Exercise Info, Would You Eat Healthier?
April 24, 2013
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Okay, let's say you're at a fast food place and you've got your eye on that burger and fries combo with a large pop.

If you knew how much exercise it would take for you to burn off all those calories, would you still buy it?

Well, a new study suggests that could be a way to get people to eat healthier.

The thinking is, if people know they have to walk briskly for two hours to burn off that combo, they might not order it.

Researchers at Texas Christian University did a study of 300 men and women aged 18 to 30 - none of whom knew what the study was about.

The people were divided into three groups. Each group got the same menu with the same items: burgers, chicken tenders, salad, fries and desserts.

Group 1 didn't get any calorie information.

Group 2 got the total calorie count for each item.

Group 3 got the calorie count and the amount of time it would take to burn off those calories.

The researchers say the group that got the extra info about time and exercise, ate a lot less than the group that had no info at all.

In fact, on average, Group 3 ordered 139 fewer calories and consumed 100 fewer calories than Group 1.

That might not sound like a lot but senior researcher Dr. Meena Shah told CNN that "a 100 calorie reduction on a daily basis could lead to some weight loss over the long term."

The researchers suggest that information about exercise (ie brisk walking) on a menu could be effective, because an hour or two of walking is something we all understand and relate to - more so than calories.

And we might not want to set aside so much time, so maybe we'd think twice about eating certain foods.


Of course, anytime we consume calories, they're converted to physical energy or stored as fat. As a society, we generally take in more calories than we should, and don't exercise enough.

Doctors say that has contributed to obesity and other health concerns, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Shah told the BBC: "This is the first study to look at the effects of displaying minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories on the calories ordered and consumed... This study suggests there are benefits."

Dr. Shah says they still need to study this further in an older and more diverse group, before they can make any policy recommendations about menu labeling.

In the meantime, she says people should "become aware of the amount of exercise it would take to burn the food calories consumed and make appropriate food choices."

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, agrees but also points out that "Restaurants can also take steps to make meals healthier by serving appropriate portion sizes and reducing the amount of salt, saturated fat and sugar in their dishes."

Ultimately, Taylor says "Whether eating at home or dining out, a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg is the best way to protect your heart."


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