A fascinating new survey conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine showed that when the number of calories for menu items was translated into physical activity, people made better eating decisions. To put that in plain English, when people saw they’d have to walk 2.6 miles to burn off the burger they were ordering, they ordered less food.
In the survey researchers tested four label options: one listed just the food item, one listed the food and the number of calories it contained, one listed food, calories and the equivalent walking distance for the those calories, and the last one listed food, calories and the amount of walking time the calories equaled (see image above). Here’s what happened:
People who viewed the menu without nutritional information ordered a meal totaling 1,020 calories, on average, significantly more than the average 826 calories ordered by those who viewed menus that included information about walking-distance. Study participants ordered meals adding up to averages of 927 calories and 916 calories from menus with only calorie information or calorie information plus minutes walking, respectively, although the differences between these two totals were not statistically significant.
The researchers next want to translate this survey into a real world setting to see what kind of results they’d achieve. This is similar to a red, yellow green labeling system that was successfully tested a while back that also helped people eat better.