Secret to ordering healthier food is seeing how far you have to walk to burn it off

Background photo: craigdietrich; Poster: NYC Health Department/CC BY 3.0

We've seen that adding nutrition information to menus has helped customers make smarter, healthier decisions about what they're ordering. But what if you also included how far they would have to walk to burn off those calories, for an extra dose of perspective? A new study shows that people will order lower-calorie menu items once they know just how much exercise it takes to lose what they consumed.

Scientific American reports that New York City's public awareness posters that show how many miles a person has to walk to burn off the calories in a 20oz soda can persuade people to make healthier decisions. Seeing calories is one thing, but translating that into exercise provides a whole new level of understanding.

In a study of 802 people testing out the efficacy of the posters, four different posters were created, one with calorie counts, one with calories plus minutes of walking to burn off those calories, one with calories, minutes and distance of walking, and one with no nutritional data at all. Turns out, the people who not only saw the calorie counts but also how far they have to walk to burn it made lower-calorie choices than the others, an average of 200 calories less than those who viewed menus without nutritional data.

"Although a difference of 200 or even 100 calories might not seem large, a 2011 study from researchers that included scientists at the National Institutes of Health calculated that eating just 10 fewer calories a day would make a person shed a pound of weight over three years," states Scientific American.

Perhaps New York City is on to the next wave of how food options are marketed and displayed. The city was, after all, at the lead of requiring restaurant chains to display nutrition information on menus. In any case, it sure gives a new definition to the term "food miles."

Tags: Food Miles | Health

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