Choosing a Restaurant Based on its Menu Type Can Help You Lose Weight

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Encouraging diners to order less fattening meals and make healthier choices has been the focus of legislation to make restaurants disclose the calorie content of menu items. Unfortunately, recent research has shown that including the number of calories beside menu items does little to deter diners from eating fat-laden dishes. However, this may change as researchers present evidence that displaying how much exercise is actually needed to burn off the calories in a dish is more effective toward helping you to eat less and lose more weight.

Researchers from Texas Christian University (TCU) are presenting data at the Experimental Biology 2013 Meeting in Boston this week, from a study that tests whether diners would be deterred from ordering high calorie meals if they knew how much exercise it would take to burn off the calories consumed.

More specifically, this exercise-based menu item information alerts diners to how many minutes (or hours) it would take walking at a brisk pace to burn off that Salisbury steak and gravy meal you are thinking about ordering.

"We need a more effective strategy to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from restaurant menus," says Dr. Meena Shah, the senior researcher of the study at TCU.

"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," adds Ashlei James, a graduate student and lead researcher of the study.

The study consisted of 300 men and women ages 18-30 who were randomly assigned to one of three menu types for ordering their meal:

• A typical menu without calorie labels beside the food items
• A menu with calorie labeling beside the food items
• A menu with the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn the food calories, but without the actual calorie count

According to the authors of the study, all menus contained the same food and beverage options including “…burgers, chicken sandwiches/tenders, salad, fries, desserts, soda, and water," states James.

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The study subjects were kept unaware of the study’s purpose, and confounders such as pre-meal hunger levels and sex were statistically adjusted to prevent skewing of the final analysis.

What the researchers found was that study participants who were given a menu that listed beside each menu item the number of minutes of brisk walking needed to burn the food calories, wound up ordering and consuming fewer calories than those given a regular menu or a menu labeled with calorie counts. Analysis revealed that there was no difference in the amount of calories ordered and consumed by diners who were given either the regular menu or the calorie count menu.

"This study suggests there are benefits to displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women. We can't generalize to a population over age 30, so we will further investigate this in an older and more diverse group," Shah said. "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."

For additional information about tips for limiting how much you eat during a meal, click-on the following titled links:

Five Diet Myths Shared by Dr. Oz and Health Officials on Weight Loss and Nutrition

A Relaxed Environment During Meals May Help You Eat Less

Oprah's 100 Calories-a-Day Elimination Tricks

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

Reference: “The Effect of Menu Labels, Displaying Minutes of Brisk Walking Needed to Burn Food Calories, on Calories Ordered and Consumed in Young Adults” The FASEB Journal (2013) 27:367.2; Ashlei James et al.

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