Food menus that inform diners of the exercise needed to burn calories from a meal may help people eat less high calorie food, according to a new US study.
Researchers at the Texas Christian University found that knowing it takes two hours of brisk walking to burn off a cheeseburger may be more effective at helping people make informed food choices than being told how many calories it contains.
Dr Meena Shah and Ashlei James randomly split 300 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 years into three groups. One received menus without any calorie information; another was given menus with the calories displayed; and the third set of menus showed both calories and the amount of exercise needed to burn them off.
All of the menus offered the same choice of food and drink, which included burgers, chips, sandwiches, salad, soft drinks and water, and none of the were aware of the reason for the study.
The researchers found that the group given the extra calorie-burning information ordered and ate less calorific food than the other groups, with each volunteer consuming 100 fewer calories on average.
Dr Shah said the study findings will be presented at the Experimental biology 2013 meeting in Bosto, and added that larger trials involving “an older and more diverse group” of people are planned to further investigate the potential health benefits of walk-to-burn-calorie menus.
Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundatio, said displaying the amount of exercise needed to burn calories is an “interesting idea”, but stressed that a heart-healthy diet involved more than just calorie counting .
“Restaurants can also take steps to make meals healthier by serving appropriate portion sizes and reducing the amount of salt, saturated fat and sugar in their dishes,” she added.

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