Published: November 2020

ID #: 73393

Journal: J Acad Nutr Diet

Authors: Sophia V Hua, Kimberly Sterner-Stein, Frances K Barg, Aviva A Musicus, Karen Glanz, Marlene B Schwartz, Jason P Block, Christina D Economos, James W Krieger, Christina A Roberto

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U.S. law mandates that chain restaurants with 20 or more locations post calorie information on their menus to inform consumers and encourage healthy choices. This study aimed to better understand parents’ perceptions and use of calorie labeling and the types of messages that might increase use. Researchers conducted 10 focus groups (n = 58) and 20 shop-along interviews (n = 20) among primary caregivers of children ages 6-12 in Philadelphia. Focus group participants discussed their hypothetical orders and restaurant experiences when dining with their children, and shop-along participants verbalized their decision processes while ordering at a restaurant. Both groups gave feedback on 4 public service messages aimed to increase healthier ordering for children. All interviews were voice-recorded and transcribed. Thematic analysis of transcripts revealed 5 key themes: (1) parents’ use of calorie labels; (2) differences across restaurant settings; (3) nonjudgmental information; (4) financial value and enjoyment of food; and (5) message preferences. These themes suggested that nonjudgmental, fact-based messages that highlight financial value, feelings of fullness, and easy meal component swaps without giving up the treat-like aspect of eating out may be particularly helpful for consumers.

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