Choosing the Light Meal: Dynamic Aggregation of Calorie Information to Reduce Consumption

Principal Investigators: Andras Molnar, Julie Downs, and George Loewenstein, Eric VanEpps.

Although numeric calorie labeling on restaurant menus will soon be implemented nationwide under an FDA mandate, prior research has generally not found effects of calorie labeling on ordering decisions, suggesting that the impact of the policy is likely to be limited. Whereas prior research testing calorie labeling has only applied the labels to individual items, we test the impact of a novel yet easy-to-implement innovation that can be added to existing menu labeling: dynamic aggregation of calorie content to provide instant feedback regarding “total calories” in a meal. Giving consumers real-time feedback about the impact of each item’s addition to or subtraction from a meal, we demonstrate that aggregation reduces total calories ordered by guiding people to choose lower-calorie items.