Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Calorie lists on menus do affect diner's choices


Gorilla in the Kitchen's menu features this reassuring message.
USA Today reported the results of a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The Yale University study divided diners into three groups.
• One was given menus with the calories listed for the dinner entrees.

• Another group was given menus that cited the calories plus a reference number that showed the recommended daily caloric intake for the average adult: about 2,000.

• A third group had menus with no calories listed.

The study found that the diners who were given the info on the number of calories for the dinner entrees as well as the recommended daily caloric intake for the average adult male (2,000 calories per day) were more likely to keep their caloric intake in check because they had a benchmark for the entire day as well as the meal itself.

For more information about this study, go to "Diners eat fewer calories when menu lists entrees' contents."

Health activists in the U.S. have been working to try to pass laws requiring restaurants to publish this type of information for some time. New York City and Philiadelphia both passed this type of legislation in 2008 and the state of New Jersey is considering similar legislation. It has been even appeared in a version of the Health Care bill currently making its way through the US Senate.

I don't think the government, on any level, should be counseling people on their dietary choices. If a person wants to eat 500 calories a day or 5,000 calories a day is not the government's concern. Those kind of decisions are between the person and their doctor or dietitian.

It costs a lot of money for a restaurant to have each menu item tested for calories, nutrition, etc. which gets passed along to the consumer. There's no such thing as a "free ride". On the other hand,  if restaurants choose to provide this information based on true consumer demand, more power to them.

Especially, when other studies have indicated that offering calorie information only motivates those people who are already pre-disposed to pick healthier food items anyway without or without the calorie information.  People who want a Half-pounder burger might change to ordering a Quarter-pound burger if the calorie information scares them a little bit, but it won't make them switch from a Quarter-pounder to a Chicken salad with dressing on the side.


However, there are some restaurants who were ahead of the curve and have made calorie information a keynote in their marketing. A case in point is Gorilla in the Kitchen (GIK), located in Seoul's trendy Agpujeong neighborhood near Dosan Park. The owners have published calorie and nutrition information on their menu items since the restaurant opened in 2006.

They also encourage customers to exercise portion control by offering two different portion options ("human" vs. "gorilla"). Based on blogospheric reviews of GIK, this information is greatly appreciated and their food tastes good, even their desserts.

Here are a couple of foodie blog reviews of GIK's offerings.

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