Objectives: We assessed the impact of restaurant menu calorie labels on food choices and intake.
Methods: Participants in a study dinner (n=303) were randomly assigned to either (1) a menu without calorie labels (no calorie labels), (2) a menu with calorie labels (calorie labels), or (3) a menu with calorie labels and a label stating the recommended daily caloric intake for an average adult (calorie labels plus information). Food choices and intake during and after the study dinner were measured.
Results: Participants in both calorie label conditions ordered fewer calories than those in the no calorie labels condition. When calorie label conditions were combined, that group consumed 14% fewer calories than the no calorie labels group. Individuals in the calorie labels condition consumed more calories after the study dinner than those in both other conditions. When calories consumed during and after the study dinner were combined, participants in the calorie labels plus information group consumed an average of 250 fewer calories than those in the other groups.
Conclusions: Calorie labels on restaurant menus impacted food choices and intake; adding a recommended daily caloric requirement label increased this effect, suggesting menu label legislation should require such a label. Future research should evaluate menu labeling's impact on children's food choices and consumption.