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WebMD Survey: 74% Say Menu Calorie Counts Helpful

WebMD Survey: 74% Say Menu Calorie Counts Helpful

Dec. 9, 2014 — Most people approve of the new FDA ruling that requires chain restaurants and vending machine operators to list calories on their menu items, according to a new WebMD survey. And among those who’ve seen calories posted on menus, nearly half say the information is already influencing their food choices when they eat out.

The nationwide survey included more than 1,100 men and women who responded from desktop computers or mobile phones. Among them, it was almost evenly divided between those who had seen calories on menus (52%) and those who had not (48%).

The majority of respondents who’d seen the calorie counts — 81% — say they approve of the rules. The survey also found:

  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) say the counts are beneficial.
  • More than half say the calorie counts are higher than they expected.

The poll findings are not a surprise, says Hansa Bhargava, MD, WebMD medical editor. “Giving people information is powerful,” she says. “Most consumers in our survey not only like the idea of seeing calories on their menu, but actually change their behavior due to it, often picking lower-calorie options.”

About one-third of calories are eaten away from home, according to the FDA. The agency’s ruling aims to give people clear information about what they’re really eating and drinking.

The rules also include labeling requirements for restaurant-style food in grocery stores, big-box stores, coffee shops, ice cream stores, movie theaters, and amusement parks.

WebMD survey participants reported eating out an average of twice weekly. Most popular for frequent visits are quick, fast food outlets.

Many say they’ve seen calories listed in the past few months, as some restaurants had already posted them. Of those people who’d seen them:

  • 75% say they saw them in fast-food outlets such as McDonald’s.
  • 53% saw them in fast-casual restaurants such as Panera Bread.
  • 66% saw them on menus at casual dining spots such as Applebee’s or the Olive Garden.
  • 23% say they saw calorie counts listed at fine dining establishments.

Fifty-six percent say the count totals were higher than they expected.

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