The facts are there; we cannot ignore them. One out of three teenagers or younger are overweight or obese. The reasons can no longer be denied. Our children are less active, choosing a more sedentary lifestyle. Food choices are frequently poor, containing unhealthy amounts of fat and calories, and little needed nutrition. Researchers believe they have an answer; they believe labeling menus would change habits.
Not only would each item be labeled with the number of calories it contained, but information regarding how far a person would have to walk to wear off that particular number of calories would be noted.
A survey of approximately 1,000 parents of children ages two to 17 with an average age of 10, revealed interesting and positive results. They were given menus created by the research group. One set had no additional information other than the food items themselves. A second set contained the number of calories but no exercise information. The third contained both calories and the number of minutes of exercise necessary to burn off those calories. The fourth contained caloric information and the number of miles necessary to walk off those calories.
Menu items included a double hamburger which contained 390 calories and required over four miles of walking; large French fries had 500 calories, and over five miles to burn them off; and a regular cola with 310 calories could be walked off in under two-and-one-half miles.
Parents who had information about calories and walking distance ordered less food with calories totaling under 1100. Those with no labels ordered food with just under 1300 calories. With information of both calories, and/or miles of minutes of exercise needed to burn them off, 38 percent of the parents said they would encourage their children to exercise more. Only 20 percent said they would suggest more exercise if calories alone were listed.
Because the menus were created for the study, and therefore no real food was offered, there will be additional research. In addition, this study did not reflect the food choices of children themselves.
The information from this first survey was very encouraging. This may be a first step to encourage healthier eating habits.
Most obesity studies have revealed that eating meals outside of the home, or eating pre-prepared foods in the home, are a major component in the nation’s obesity problem.
By James Turnage