Calorie Labels on the Restaurant Menu: Is the Use of Weight-Control Behaviors Related to Ordering Decisions?

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Abstract

Background: There is emerging evidence that calorie information on restaurant menus does not similarly influence the ordering decisions of all population groups and may have unintended consequences for individuals who struggle with disordered eating or other weight-related concerns. Objective: This study describes demographic patterns in the use of calorie information on restaurant menus and investigates relationships between using this information to limit calorie intake and measures of restaurant visit frequency and weight-related concerns and behavior. Design/participants: There were 788 men and 1042 women (mean age=31.0±1.6 years) who participated in the fourth wave of the Project EAT study. Participants were initially recruited from Minneapolis-St Paul, MN, schools and completed EAT-IV surveys online or by mail from 2015 to 2016. Main outcome measures: Participants self-reported weight-related concerns, restaurant eating, intuitive eating, dieting, healthy (eg, exercise) and unhealthy (eg, use of laxatives) weight-control behaviors, and binge eating. Statistical analyses performed: Descriptive statistics and linear and logistic regression models accounting for demographics and weight status. Results: Approximately half of participants (52.7%) reported they had noticed calorie information while purchasing a meal or snack in a restaurant within the previous month. Among individuals who noticed calorie information, 38.2% reported they did not use it in deciding what to order. The most common use of calorie information was to avoid high-calorie menu items (50.1%) or to decide on a smaller portion (20.2%). Using menu labels to limit calories was related to binge eating among women and was associated with more weight-related concerns, dieting, and unhealthy weight-control behaviors among both women and men. Conclusions: Nutrition educators and other health care professionals should talk with clients who struggle with disordered eating or weight-related concerns to learn about their use of calorie information at restaurants, address any potential unintended consequences, and promote healthy uses of calorie information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-408
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Volume118
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Keywords

  • Binge eating
  • Dieting
  • Menu labeling
  • Restaurants
  • Weight control

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