Purpose: To determine whether adolescents will modify their ordering behavior if calorie and fat nutrition information is posted on the restaurant menu.
Methods: Adolescent volunteers (aged 11 to 18 years) were asked to order a dinner of their choice from three different restaurant menus (McDonald's, Panda Express, and Denny's) and then from a second set of modified menus with calorie and fat content information posted next to each menu item. Total reported consumed calories, fat, and the price of the meal ordered were calculated for each meal.
Results: For the first 106 adolescents enrolled, 75 did not change any of their orders after being shown the calorie and fat content information. For the 31 who did change some of their orders, 43 meals resulted in decreased calories and 11 meals resulted in increased calories (20 resulted in a more expensive meal, 23 resulted in a less expensive meal and 11 resulted in no change in the cost of the meal; average change 0.027 dollar increase). Of the 27 who rated themselves as too fat or slightly overweight, only 9 (33%) changed their orders.
Conclusions: The provision of calorie and fat content information on the menus did not modify the food ordering behavior for the majority of adolescents. However, the provision of the nutrition information should still be encouraged because it resulted in some calorie/fat reduction by some of the adolescents and it did not adversely affect the restaurants' revenue.