Got no willpower Try a menu that states how many MIILES you'll need to walk to burn off dinner
Diners are more likely to choose a healthier fast food snack if the menu states how many miles they have to walk to get rid of itThose given no details picked dishes that averaged around 1,020 calories each Those told how many miles they would have to walk ate an average of just 826 calories
18:55 GMT, 18 December 2012
It may make depressing reading. But menus that say how far you have to walk to burn off your favourite foods really can help in the battle of the bulge.
Researchers found diners who are counting the calories are more likely to choose a healthier fast food snack if the menu states how many miles they have to walk to get rid of it than if it just has details on calorie intake or no nutritional information at all.
Diners are more likely to choose a healthier snack if the menu states how many miles they have to walk to get rid of it
The research, published in the journal Appetite, shows consumers also took more notice of the distance they would need to cover in miles, rather than the number of minutes walking involved.
It suggests shoppers are able to visualise the full extent of the physical activity needed to burn off calorie intake when it is spelled out in distance terms and not time.
Food labelling has changed significantly in recent years, with a much greater availability of information on calorie intake and content.
But there is little clear evidence on how this has affected dietary habits or whether it has encouraged healthier eating.
Experts at the University of North Carolina in the US wanted to see how different types of labelling affected consumer behaviour.
They recruited 800 volunteers and split them into four groups.
The so-called 'walk it off' menus appeared to have a potentially powerful effect, with diners often choosing snacks containing 200 fewer calories
Each group had to choose fast food
snacks from a menu that either gave no nutritional information at all,
details of calorie content, the number of minutes walking needed to burn
those calories off or number of miles needed to walk to achieve the same outcome.
The results showed customers given no details at all picked dishes that averaged around 1,020 calories each – about half a woman's recommended daily calorie intake and 40 per cent of a man's.
Those given calorie content alone went for foods averaging 927 calories.
But the volunteers told how many minutes walking were needed opted for average calorie intake of 916 and those informed how many miles they would have to cover just 826 calories.
The researchers said although the study was small, so-called 'walk it off' menus appeared to have a potentially powerful effect.
In a report on their findings they said: 'The menu with calories and the number of miles to walk to burn those calories appeared to be the most effective in influencing the selection of lower calorie meals.
'The majority of participants – 82 per cent – said they preferred physical activity-based menu labels over those with calorie information or nothing at all.'