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 diverse primary caregivers of children aged 6–12 years (data collected and analyzed in 2017–2019). 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.
Messages Promoting Healthy Kids’ Meals: An Online RCT
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 … More
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 … More
Evaluating the implementation and impact of a healthier checkout programme at a regional convenience store chain
This study aimed to test the feasibility of implementing and evaluating a healthier checkout pilot study in a convenience store chain in New Hampshire. A quasi-experimental study was conducted comparing a 3-month ‘healthier checkouts’ intervention in ten convenience stores which stocked eight healthier items in the checkout space and ten … More