In the past few decades, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing — and reading — nutrition labels on our groceries. But with obesity on the rise in the United States, it sure seems like this knowledge hasn’t swayed many of us from making better food choices.
Is there a better way to change the public’s habits? Ashlei James, a graduate student at Texas Christian University, has a better idea. Instead of giving diners menus with calories listed, perhaps we should be giving them an estimate of how much exercise it would take to burn off those calories. In James’ study, 300 participants received menus with calories listed, with no calories listed, and with the walk times to burn off those calories listed. The results? Participants who received a menu with walk times listed ordered less and ate less of the items on the menu. The participants who received menus without walk times or calories listed, and even those with just calories listed, didn’t change their eating habits at all.
For a little perspective, here are some rough figures of how long a 130 pound woman would need to walk to burn off the calories in some popular chain restaurant dishes, assuming a moderate pace of three miles per hour:
- Olive Garden’s Fettuccine Alfredo: 6 Hours 15 minutes.
- P.F. Chang’s Mongolian Beef: 5 Hours 10 Minutes.
- McDonald’s Big Mac: 3 Hours.
- Pizza Hut’s Cheese Pizza (per slice): 1 Hour 15 Minutes.
Wow — that’s really some food for thought! Prompting consumers to think about how much they’d have to walk to burn off those decadent meals does seem to have an effect on eating choices. Would it change your choices? Tell us in the comments!