Listing Calorie Counts on Restaurant Menus Might Not Help Us Eat Healthier

jamiepopeauthor
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Do your students take note of the calorie counts on restaurant menus or menu boards?  Might be an interesting polling or discussion board question - and can generate some good dialog.   If students say no, they are among the almost 70% of people who don't pay much attention to these "numbers". And that might not be a bad thing!  In the US, restaurant chains of certain sizes are required by law to post calorie content of menu items. Instituted in 2018, research since has found that calorie info on menus doesn't seem to have much influence on what most people actually order or on the overall quality of their diets. Intended to aid people in making healthier choices and battle the obesity epidemic, calorie information alone doesn't reflect nutritional quality or overall healthfulness of menu items. Much more important considerations.  Menu labeling is addressed in Chapter 2 (Healthy Diets) in Nutrition for a Changing World.  And for some, a focus on calories can have detrimental effects on risk for or impact upon disordered eating.  This may be particularly relevant in the college age population.  In fact, over a decade ago a large university posted calorie counts with food items in their cafeteria - only to quickly take down this misguided endeavor.  Also, few people have an understanding of the context of the calorie listings within their overall energy needs. Personally, I would prefer if these counts were available in a less "in your face" format - online or even in a separate brochure that also included information about vitamins, minerals, fiber, and the like.  Interesting read here:  https://www.eatingwell.com/article/8057955/calorie-counts-menus-healthier-choices-research/

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About the Author
Jamie Pope, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Assistant Professor of Practice in Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, has worked in the areas of obesity research, health promotion, heart disease prevention, and since 2000 teaching introductory nutrition. Beyond the classroom, she adapted portions of her nutrition courses to produce a Massive Open Online Course attracting more than 175,000 participants from around the world. This experience earned Jamie an Innovation in Teaching award from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She is the co-author of the textbook entitled Nutrition for a Changing World. Now in its second edition, the text is in use in over 140 universities across the U.S. and the recipient of a 2020 Textbook Excellence Award. Most recently she developed and produced an audio course for Learn25.com (Nutrition 101: Understanding the Science and Practice of Eating Well) that is also featured on platforms like Apple Books and Audible. Jamie holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and post graduate work in Health Psychology. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has authored or contributed to numerous scientific and popular press publications. Jamie also held several corporate positions, serving as nutrition consultant and media representative.