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28th Feb 2018

Does putting calorie counts on menus really stop people eating more?

Jade Hayden

Calorie counts on menus – good thing or a bad thing?

Some say seeing the little number printed below their favourite treat sends them into a guilt-fuelled panic.

Others argue that including the number of calories in all fast food, restaurant, and drinks items is necessary to combat obesity and to make consumers more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies.

However, as most of us are well aware, the number of calories in a food is not an accurate representation of what’s actually in that food – or what effect its ingredients will have on our health.

Regardless, the past few years have seen more and more food-based companies agree to include calorie counts on their menus.

And while most of us would rather not come face to face with just how many of them are in our daily soy latte with a shot of vanilla, the logic behind the move absolutely makes sense.

Has it been making a difference though?

Sort of… but not really.

According to research conducted by Universities in Cambridge and Oxford, including calories on menu items reduces how much consumers eat by just 12 percent.

The study considered the results of multiple nutritional based surveys concerning how food labelling affected people’s eating habits.

Study author Theresa Mateau said that the number wasn’t bad but that there are clearly other ways needed to encourage people to eat healthier.

She said:

“This evidence suggests that using nutritional labelling could help reduce calorie intake and make a useful impact as part of a wider set of measures aimed at tackling obesity.

“There is no ‘magic bullet’ to solve the obesity problem, so while calorie labelling may help, other measures to reduce calorie intake are also needed.”

Obesity Health Alliance’s Caroline Cerny added that clear food labelling is the key to ensuring consumers make appropriate food choices.

She said:

“Too often food in restaurants or cafes can be a large portion size and packed with hidden ingredients such as salt or sugar, so it’s very easy to eat more calories than you need.

“Clear labelling of the food we eat out of home, as is increasingly on display on supermarket products, is an important step to empowering people to make informed choices when it comes to eating.”