Meena Shah of Texas Christian University and graduate student Ashlei James said retail food establishments part of a chain with 20 or more locations nationwide must disclose the calorie content of each menu item. However, the majority of studies indicate providing information on calorie content does not lead to fewer calories ordered or consumed.
"We need a more effective strategy to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from restaurant menus," Shah said in a statement. "Brisk walking is something nearly everyone can relate to, which is why we displayed on the menu the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories."
Shah, James and colleagues conducted a study of 300 men and women ages 18-30.
"The group was randomly assigned to a menu without calorie labels, a menu with calorie labels or a menu with labels for the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn the food calories," James said. "All menus contained the same food and beverage options, which included burgers, chicken sandwiches/tenders, salad, fries, desserts, soda and water."
The results indicated the menu displaying the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories led to fewer calories ordered and consumed compared with the menu without calorie labels.
"For example, a female would have to walk briskly for approximately 2 hours to burn the calories in a quarter-pound double cheeseburger," Shah said.
The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in Boston.