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Drexel study: Consumers order a less unhealthy meal when the menu has nutritional labeling

customers purchased food that had approximately 1,600 food calories (kcal) a total that rose to 1,800 calories when also counting beverages. Most people need only 2,000 calories for an entire day, so a single meal approximated a full day's worth of calories. Purchased meals had an average sodium content of 3,200 milligrams, with an average of 35 grams of saturated fat. These numbers far exceed recommended limits for an entire day. For most people, recommended daily limits are 2,300 milligrams sodium and 20 grams of saturated fat.

"When you compare the average intake with the recommended daily intake, these consumers purchased almost all their calories, and more than the recommended sodium and saturated fat in just one meal," said Beth Leonberg, an assistant clinical professor and director of the didactic program in dietetics in Drexel's College of Nursing and Health Professions, who co-authored the study. "In order to not exceed recommended intakes for the day, most adults should consume fewer than 750 calories, 750 milligrams of sodium and 8 grams of saturated fat in a single meal."

The authors concluded that current efforts don't go far enough to help consumers to eat sensibly and to encourage portion control. Educating consumers about menu labeling may further increase the small observed impact on healthier consumer choices.

"We also need to pursue approaches that make the healthy choice the default," said Giridhar Mallya, MD, director of policy and planning for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and a co-author of the study. "This might include product reformulation, promoting healthier options on menus, and offering smaller portion sizes."


Contact: Rachel Ewing
Drexel University

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Drexel study: Consumers order a less unhealthy meal when the menu has nutritional labeling
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