Chapel Hill, N.C. — Would you choose a double cheeseburger off a fast food menu if you knew you would have to walk 5.6 miles to work it off? Researchers in a recent University of North Carolina study have found a new strategy to help customers make healthier decisions when ordering from fast food restaurants.
In recent years, large chain fast food restaurants have begun listing calorie counts beside each item on their menus. Dr. Anthony Viera, the study’s senior author said, “The calorie information alone may not be enough to motivate people’s decision.”
The UNC researchers used focus groups and hypothetical menus to test a new strategy. The hypothetical menus list both the calories and the walking miles you’d need to burn those calories. For instance, a double cheeseburger equals 5.6 miles of walking and a salad equals just 3.1 miles.
Viera believes that this new strategy might resonate more clearly with people and nudge them to make wiser choices.
Researchers found that those who saw the new graphic, showing both calories and walking miles, chose menu items averaging 200 calories less than those who saw no nutritional information and 100 calories less than those who saw only the total calories.
The researchers now want to test their nutritional labels in real-life fast food scenarios. If they can prove it is a value to consumers, they believe it could become a national policy.