Menu labels displaying the kilocalorie content or the exercise equivalent: effects on energy ordered and consumed in young adults

Am J Health Promot. 2015 May-Jun;29(5):294-302. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.130522-QUAN-267. Epub 2014 Feb 27.


Purpose: Determine the effect of menu labels displaying the energy content of food items or the exercise equivalent on energy ordered and consumed at lunch and energy intake for the remainder of the day in young adults.

Design: Subjects were randomized to a menu with no labels (no-labels), menu with kilocalorie labels displaying the energy content of the food items (kcal-labels), or menu with exercise labels displaying the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn the food energy (exercise-labels).

Setting: The study was conducted in one dining area located in a metabolic kitchen at the Texas Christian University and another located in a residence occupied by graduate students.

Subjects: Of the 300 subjects, 55.7% were female, 77.3% were college students, 88% were white, and 88% were non-Hispanic. Mean body mass index and age were 24.2 ± 4.5 kg/m(2) and 21.9 ± 2.3 years, respectively.

Intervention: All menus contained the same food/beverage choices. Subjects ordered and consumed foods/beverages for lunch from the menu to which they were assigned. Subjects were blinded to study purpose.

Measures: Energy ordered and consumed at lunch were assessed from the weight of the food ordered and consumed, respectively, and the energy content of the same foods available on the restaurant Web site. Postlunch energy intake was assessed by food recall.

Analysis: Analysis of covariance, adjusted for premeal hunger levels and gender, determined the effect of menu type on energy ordered and consumed and postlunch energy intake.

Results: Significant menu effect was observed for energy ordered (p = .008) and consumed (p = .04) at lunch. The exercise-labels group ordered significantly (p = .002) less energy (adjusted mean [confidence intervals]: 763 [703, 824] kcal) at lunch, compared to the no-labels group (902 [840, 963] kcal) but not compared to the kcal-labels group (827 [766, 888] kcal). The exercise-labels group also consumed significantly (p = .01) less energy (673 [620, 725] kcal) at lunch, compared to the no-labels group (770 (717, 823) kcal) but not compared to the kcal-labels group (722 [669, 776] kcal). Energy ordered and consumed were not different between kcal-labels and no-labels groups. There was no difference in postlunch energy intake by menu type.

Conclusion: The menu with exercise-labels resulted in less energy ordered and consumed and this did not lead to greater energy consumption post lunch, compared to the menu with no-labels in young adults largely made up of normal-weight, non-Hispanic white college students.

Keywords: Energy Intake; Fast Food; Health focus: nutrition; Manuscript format: research; Menu Labeling; Outcome measures: behavioral; Prevention Research; Research purpose: intervention testing; Setting: school; Strategy: behavior change; Study design: randomized trial; Target population age: adults; Target population circumstances: education/income level, geographic location, and race/ethnicity.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Energy Intake*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Food Labeling / methods*
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Racial Groups
  • Restaurants*
  • Sex Factors
  • Texas
  • Young Adult