A new study suggests that restaurants that now provide "low-calorie" labels on their menus can inadvertently cause people to eliminate healthy food right off the bat.
"Because most restaurant menus are quite complex-offering numerous dishes composed of multiple ingredients-diners try to simplify their decision. People have come to expect low-calorie food to taste bad or not fill them up," authors Jeffrey R. Parker (Georgia State University) and Donald R. Lehmann (Columbia University) wrote.
"We propose that by calorie organizing a menu, restaurants make it easier for people to use the general 'low-calorie' label to dismiss all low-calorie options early in the decision process," they wrote.
In four online studies, the authors asked participants to order food from menus similar to what they might encounter at well-known chain restaurants. Some participants were shown traditional menus that listed available dishes in food-type categories (with no calorie information on the menu). Another set of participants was given the same menus, but with calorie information provided by each dish. A third group was given the calorie-labeled menus with the low-calorie dishes grouped together and given a low-calorie section label.
Study results showed that the participants who were given the traditional menus without any calorie information and the menus with the low-calorie food grouped together ordered food with similar amounts of calories. Interestingly, the participants who ordered from the calorie-labeled (but not grouped) menus ordered meals with fewer calories overall.
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research. (ANI)