Study shows people don't give a crap how many calories they eat
January 18th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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Posting calories on menus has little effect on what customers buy, according to a recent study.

Customers at TacoTime (a western Washington chain)  who read how many calories are in their chimichangas, burritos and tacos on the restaurant's menu were just as likely to order them as people who don’t have that information.

For 13 months, researchers recorded food purchases at seven suburban TacoTimes and seven inside Seattle, Washington. Seattle passed a law requiring that all fast food chains post their calories, fat and sodium content to the menus in 2009.

Once the law went into effect, public health researchers in Seattle  and researchers from Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School compared what people were buying at TacoTimes inside and outside the city.

Contrary to their hypothesis, “We found no difference,” said lead author Eric Finkelstein.  “We looked at the variables – the transactions, total calories per transaction, food, dessert, entrees. We weren’t able to find any effect whatsoever.”

Read the rest of "Customers pay little heed to calories on menus" on CNN Health.

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Filed under: Diets • Health News • News

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. LEB

    This "study" doesn't really prove anything. People who are calorie conscious will be doing one of two things in regards to eating fast food... they will either avoid it all together (meaning they weren't coming in to be surveyed), or they will adjust their calories for the rest of the day after having a high-calorie fast food meal (are surveyors going to follow them home to see what they eat later?). Thus, the implication that disclosing calorie info does not influence customer choice is inaccurate... because factors that would more accurately reflect consumer choice are not being measured. Or can't be measured.

    I moved from TX to WA, and believe me, I APPRECIATE the local laws requiring fast food joints to disclose nutrition information. I wish sit-down restaurants, including those privately owned, had to follow the same rules... or would at least do so voluntarily. It's much easier to adjust your lifestyle around your daily calorie intake when you know for sure how many calories you're eating. That's not an easy thing to do while eating out, unless you want to be a pain-in-the-rear to your waiter.

    February 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  2. Bob

    What did they expect doing the survey at a Taco joint? They should repeat it at some place that caters to a more healthy lifestyle, such as Panera's.

    February 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  3. QM

    This is a stupid idiotic "study" that proves nothing. If I go to Taco Time and order a burrito, yes I am going to order it regardless of how many calories it contains, but it doesn't take into account that I factor how many calories were in that burrito when I eat for the rest of the day. So providing nutritional information IS still important for calorie helps them figure out what they are eating for the whole of the day.

    February 2, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  4. J

    Studies also show that people are fat lazy slobs. Especially people at TacoTime or other chain fast food joints.

    February 2, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  5. jillmarie

    I agree it need to be tested more places. In NYC, I saw calorie counts for the first time last spring. A few weeks ago, I was at the movies, and was surprized to see calorie counts. Of course I scrutinized the menu. I'm glad I had bought my own popcorn in- 130 cals- because the pretzel bites I was thinking of getting had 1100 calories! That's insane. Never again will I order them. I had estimated 400 calories- so wrong! It's eye-opening and I believe helpful to know what you're consuming.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  6. Evil Grin

    They're going to base a study on a short term experiment in a fast food taco joint?

    Honestly, many people are set in their ways. If they used to eat the mega heart attack burger on a regular basis, and then were faced with the fact that it's 2,000 calories, they're probably not going to change much. It's not going to benefit them, necessarily. Neither will it benefit the health nut that would never set foot in such a place.

    Who this is going to affect is their kids and those people who are trying to make little changes for their health. Someone who is keeping a general tab on calories for the day and wants to grab lunch out might really make the change from the 2,000 calorie burger to the smaller 500 calorie burger without cheese if they are looking at those numbers. Concerned parents might make slightly better choices for their kids. And the younger generation, if they grow up used to using these things, are going to be able to utilize it in their daily lives.

    I think they need to try it long term at more places than a taco joint to get accurate results.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  7. Rachael

    moderation. Try to cook more at home to control your ingredients. Broaden your culinary horizons and try to cook food from other places.

    January 19, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  8. Charlotte

    Most of us who care about our health and fitness (and, lets face it, not looking like a beached whale) are not going to eat at fast food restaurants in the first place, or will do so rarely enough that we aren't going to tweak the statistics in this kind of study. It does not mean that it's a bad idea to offer the information. People are entitled to know, even if they don't change their order. For what it's worth, someone might go to one of these places once a week or so and be doing something at another meal to compensate for the extra fat, calories, and so forth. On Weight Watchers you CAN eat at these places once in awhile but you need to balance the unhealthy meal by cutting back some other time. Someone ordering the gut-bomb mega-taco might need to know its nutritional content so he/she can compensate. That complication is not part of this study, they only note that the person came in and ate it. Poorly designed study IMHO. How do they know whether people used the caloric information or not? All they know is how many of X or Y was purchased.

    January 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  9. Cole

    I just want to know if the food from Taco Time is any good – How does it compare to Taco Bell? Their menu items aren't that bad. The salads clock in at 310-490 calories. Salads from Taco Bell are a whopping 460-910 calories. I'm curious about their Mexi-Fries, which seem like nothing more than tater tots, and Empanadas.

    January 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Aaron

      I was in Seattle this past summer and ate at Taco Time on a few occasions. I am not a fast food guy and a calorie counter for sure but it really was fairly decent, a step or 2 better than Taco Bell which I despise.

      February 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  10. Skottikins

    Well, really, the only people who care about the calories are people who are concerend about their healty. Which, in this country, is a precious few. See: The Obesity Epidemic.

    January 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  11. MT Miner

    Would be interesting to have some comparable data at a sit down restraunt that has real food, and real options on the menu, I am betting there would be a decernable difference in the outcome. Fast cheap food is just that, its not something the calorie counting dieter is going to go eat.

    January 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  12. JBJingles

    It would seem that people who eat at places like TacoTime, for the most part, would not care about such things. I imagine a lot of teenagers and they know everything anyway...

    January 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
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