Menu labeling for chain restaurants has been proposed to help address concerns about poor diet and obesity, but little research has tested its impact. There is evidence that adding a 2,000 daily caloric requirement label to menus can increase the effectiveness of menu labeling on altering adults food choices and intake. However, there are no studies evaluating how the food choices and intake of parents and children are influenced by menu labels and labels about daily caloric intake. This is a critical question since it is possible that parents will help children select meals based on a 2,000 calorie diet when children's requirements are actually much less. The provision of children's daily caloric requirement labels may be able to prevent this outcome and further increase the effectiveness of menu labeling. Therefore, this study aims to evaluate the impact of calorie labels on restaurant menus on the food choices and intake of parents and their children eating a meal together. We will randomize between 200 and 250 families (with the goal of recruiting 300 children) to either 1) a menu without calorie labels (No Calorie Labels);2) a menu with calorie labels and a label stating the recommended daily caloric requirements for adults (Calorie Labels plus Adult Information);3) a menu with calorie labels and labels stating the recommended daily caloric requirements for adults as well as children of different age ranges (Calorie Labels plus Adult and Children Information). Families will be recruited from the New Haven Community to participate in a consumer market research study of dining preferences and eating habits to conceal the study's purpose. They will participate in a focus group and order dinner from one of three menus. Their food choices will be recorded and their food consumption will be objectively measured. The families will then return the next day for a dietary recall interview to assess what they ate after the study meal. Our primary aims are to test whether calorie labels on restaurant menus influence the total calories ordered and consumed by parents and children during a dinner meal. We will also assess the total calories consumed by parents and children in the evening following the dinner meal and the combination of the total calories consumed by parents and children during the dinner meal plus the total calories consumed by parents and children in the evening following the dinner meal. Finally, we will evaluate the ability of parents to estimate how many calories they consumed during a dinner meal as well as how many calories their children consumed. This proposed study will be the first to evaluate how calorie labels as required by current policy impact the ordering and consumption of restaurant food by parents and children eating a meal together. The results can help policy makers determine the kind of nutrition information that should be included as part of menu label legislation in an effort to improve poor diet and ultimately reduce the prevalence of obesity. In addition to the proposed study, this application outlines a research training plan to carry out the proposed research. The training plan is designed to meet five goals: 1) Build upon existing research to better understand how menu labeling policies impact the food choices of parents and children;2) Gain experience conducting research with children;3) Learn advanced statistical techniques that will be applied to the proposed study and used in future research;4) Continue to integrate clinical psychology and public health methods and perspectives;5) Learn how to effectively disseminate scientific findings to other researchers in the field, the public and to policy makers. These training experiences will be achieved through formal coursework, special seminars, lab meetings, close working relationships with a primary research mentor and other faculty, and interactions with staff at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
Menu labeling is a public health policy requiring chain restaurants to post calorie information on restaurant menus and menu boards. The hope is that menu labels will positively impact consumers'food choices and consumption, but little research has tested its impact. The proposed study will be the first to evaluate how calorie labels as required by current policy impact the ordering and consumption of restaurant food by parents and children eating a meal together. The results can help policy makers determine the kind of nutrition information that should be included as part of menu label legislation in an effort to improve poor diet among adults and children and ultimately reduce the prevalence of obesity.
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