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Impact Government & Policy

Informing the National Requirement for Calorie Labels on Menus

overhead view of a menu board in a restaurant to show the importance of labeling

Having an unhealthy diet is a major public health concern. Giving people caloric information on the food they eat in chain restaurants could help people make healthier decisions.


CHIBE Associate Director and Director of the PEACH Lab Dr. Christina Roberto conducted a randomized controlled study on restaurant menu labeling, which helped inform the national requirement that calorie labels on restaurant menus include a statement that places that information in the context of an adult’s recommended daily caloric intake. In the study, participants were randomly assigned to a menu with one of these three conditions:

  • No calorie labels
  • Calorie labels
  • Calorie labels and information on what the recommended daily caloric intake is for the average adult

The researchers found that those who received menus with calorie labeling ordered meals with fewer calories. However, they also discovered that participants who saw calorie labels (but not daily caloric intake recommendations) consumed more calories after the study dinner than those in the other two groups. Taking into consideration calories consumed during and after the study dinner, the participants who were given information on calories and the recommended daily caloric intake consumed an average of 250 fewer calories than the other groups, providing evidence that menu label legislation should require this labeling.

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