Published: May 2021

ID #: 73393

Journal: Am J Prev Med

Authors: Musicus AA, Hua SV, Schwartz MB, Block JP, Barg FK, Economos CD, Glanz K, Krieger JW, Roberto CA

See more related research


Calorie labeling is now required on all large U.S. chain restaurant menus, but its influence on consumer behavior is mixed. This study examines whether different parent-targeted messages encourage parents to order lower-calorie meals for their children in a hypothetical online setting. An online RCT was conducted with primary caregivers of children aged 6–12 years. Participants (N=2,373) were randomized to see 1 of 4 messages: (1) nonfood control, (2) kids’ meals are the right size for children, (3) doctors recommend a 600 kcal per meal limit for kids, or (4) 600 kcal per meal is a generally recommended limit for kids. Participants ordered hypothetical meals for their children and themselves and rated meal and message perceptions. There were no significant differences between conditions in calories ordered for children at either restaurant, although all 3 food message conditions ordered fewer calories for their children than the control (full service: 27–68 fewer kcal, fast food: 18–64 fewer kcal). The general 600 kcal/meal limit message consistently performed best across outcomes, encouraging parents to order the fewest calories for their children at both restaurants (5%–7% fewer) and significantly increasing their understanding of calorie recommendations for kids’ meals. It also significantly reduced fast-food calories parents ordered for themselves compared with the control (−106 kcal, p=0.042). Although no statistically significant differences were detected, messages with specific calorie recommendations for kids led parents to order lower-calorie restaurant meals for their children, suggesting that additional real-world studies with larger sample sizes are warranted.

Related Research

November 2020

A Qualitative Study of Parents With Children 6 to 12 Years Old: Use of Restaurant Calorie Labels to Inform the Development of a Messaging Campaign

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 More

February 2016

Improving Menu Labeling by Restaurants to Better Guide Parents in Helping Their Children Make Healthy Food Selections

This study will develop and evaluate ways to increase the impact of restaurant menu labeling among parents buying food for their children to address concerns that restaurant calorie labeling laws have not been as influential as they could be. The goals of this project are to emplore how parents respond to restaurant calorie labeling and More

November 2023

Understanding the Chasm in the Diffusion of Online Food Benefit Ordering: A Service Ecosystem Approach

Although consumers used online grocery shopping more frequently to limit exposure to the COVID-19 virus during the pandemic, the participants of some federal nutrition assistance programs lacked the option to redeem their food benefits online. Some retailers were pilot-testing online food benefit ordering for the participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, More