Struggling to say no to dessert We make healthier food choices if we see how much EXERCISE it takes to burn off a meal
Diners choose less calories when shown exercise needed to burn it off
But knowing calories in food does not affect calories we eat at restaurants
Nick Mcdermott, Science Reporter
19:04 GMT, 23 April 2013
02:30 GMT, 24 April 2013
For those of us that struggle to say no to dessert, a reminder of the consequences might help us when we need to resist temptation.
Researchers found that when diners were shown the amount of exercise needed to burn off an item of food on a menu, they chose a less calorific option.
However if they were simply provided with nutritional data, they failed to opt for healthier selections.
In fact their calorie intake was very similar to those who were given no information at all.
Researchers found that when diners were shown the amount of exercise needed to burn off an item of food on a menu they chose a less calorific option
In the study 300 participants aged between 18 and 30 were randomly assigned a menu.
One had no extra details, one had the food’s calorie content and one told them how many minutes of brisk walking it would take to burn off the calories.
The researchers found the menu with the exercise information made people order 15 per cent fewer calories compared to the menu without any labels.
There was no significant difference between the menu with calorie information and the menu without any nutritional data.
Lead researcher Ashlei James, from the Texas Christian University, said: ‘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.
‘All menus contained the same food and beverage options, which included burgers, chicken sandwiches, salad, fries, desserts, soda, and water.’
Senior researcher Dr Meena Shah said: ‘We need a more effective strategy to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from restaurant menus.
‘This study suggests there are benefits to displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women.
‘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 example a female would have to walk
briskly for approximately two hours to burn the calories in a
quarter-pound double cheeseburger. But we can’t generalize to a
population over age 30, so we will further investigate this in an older
and more diverse group.’
No pain, no gain: The researchers found the menu with exercise information made people order 15 per cent fewer calories compared to the menu without any labels
Under the Government’s ‘responsibility deal’, 48 food retailers – including McDonald’s, Subway and Pret A Manger – have agreed to display clear calorie labelling on their products.
But previous studies have shown that telling people how many calories they are consuming does not make them change their eating habits. Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said that calorie counts alone are ‘fairly meaningless’ but combining the with exercise information is a ‘brilliant idea’.
She added: ‘People have no conception whatsoever of a calorie but they really do know what an hour’s walk is.
‘And if it takes an hour to burn off three chocolate biscuits, they will put the two together.’
Fat attack on Nigella and co