We’ve now seen consistently more and more fast food restaurants adding calorie counts next to the food items on the menu, but are people really paying attention? A recent study from Arizona State University discovered that there is a link on what foods are chosen dependent greatly on income and education level. A startling statistic found that “approximately 60% of participants noticed the calorie menu labels, but only 16% reported using the labels to determine food and beverage choices”. This study — published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — is a completely fresh perspective on further investigating the possibility of customers actually noticing and using the calorie count menu labels in fast food restaurants in a diverse income and with a racially diverse variety of adults. But, even more illuminating information has been found in the following statement. “Studies show consumers and nutritionists alike have trouble estimating the calorie and nutrient content of a restaurant meal. Because fast food is a popular choice among Americans, we wanted to see how effective menu labeling was and if it helped customers make healthier choices. What we found, however, was that while the majority of customers noticed the labels, a very small percentage reported using them to influence their purchasing decisions and customers with lower income and lower education levels reported using menu labels to a much lesser extent.” In speaking about diversity in income, another question arises about food security and insecurity. Did you know that there are stages of food security? As defined by the USDA: USDA’s labels describe ranges of food security Food Security High food security (old label=Food security): no reported indications of food-access problems or limitations. Marginal food security (old label=Food security): one or two reported indications—typically of anxiety over food sufficiency or shortage of food in the house. Little or no indication of changes in diets or food intake. Food Insecurity Low food security (old label=Food insecurity without hunger): reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake. Very low food security (old label=Food insecurity with hunger): Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. The likelihood of those in the low food security group as being the targets of this study is definitely high. This is where it is vital to reinforce healthy eating habits and behaviors as part of a lifestyle change. There is much more at stake than just bad eating habits as so many other factors are involved such as our agriculture, environment, public health and education. Another thing to think about since we live in a land of many instant conveniences — are people of any sociodemographic status willing to give up on junk fast food altogether? Read more about beating your mindless eating habits here.
Guest Post Written By: Lydia Wisz- Food Wisz-dom