Food and Beverage Selection Patterns among Menu Label Users and Nonusers: Results from a Cross-Sectional Study

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Jun;117(6):929-936. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.12.012. Epub 2017 Feb 13.


Background: By May 5, 2017, restaurants with 20 or more locations nationwide will be required to post calorie information on menus and menu boards. Previous research shows that those who use menu labels purchase fewer calories, but how users are saving calories is unknown.

Objective: To assess food and beverage selection patterns among menu label users and nonusers.

Design: Secondary, cross-sectional analysis using data from a study examining sociodemographic disparities in menu label usage at a national fast-food restaurant chain.

Participants/setting: Participants were recruited outside restaurant locations, using street-intercept survey methodology. Consenting customers submitted receipts and completed a brief oral survey. Receipt data were used to categorize food and beverage purchases.

Main outcome measure: Side, beverage, and entrée purchases. Sides and beverages were classified as healthier and less-healthy options consistent with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Healthier options contained items promoted in the guidelines, such as whole fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and 100% fruit juice; less-healthy options contained solid fat or added sugar. Entrées were categorized as lower-, medium-, and higher-calorie options, based on quartile cutoffs.

Statistical analyses: Multinomial logistic regression models were used to estimate prevalence ratios (PRs) for purchases among menu label users and nonusers, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and total price paid.

Results: Healthier sides were selected by 7.5% of users vs 2.5% of nonusers; healthier beverages were selected by 34.0% of users vs 11.6% of nonusers; and lowest-calorie entrées were selected by 28.3% of users vs 30.1% of nonusers. Compared with nonusers (n=276), users (n=53) had a higher probability of purchasing healthier sides (PR=5.44; P=0.034), and healthier beverages (PR=3.37; P=0.005). No significant differences were seen in the purchasing patterns of entrées.

Conclusions: Targeting educational campaigns to side and beverage purchasing behaviors may increase the effectiveness of menu labeling.

Keywords: Fast food; Food environment; Food purchases; Menu labeling.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Beverages*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Fast Foods
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Labeling*
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritive Value
  • Restaurants*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult