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Open Access Research article

The publics' understanding of daily caloric recommendations and their perceptions of calorie posting in chain restaurants

Sara N Bleich12* and Keshia M Pollack123

Author affiliations

1 Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore MD, USA

2 Center for Health Disparities Solutions, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore MD, USA

3 Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore MD, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:121  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-121

Published: 9 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Calorie posting in chain restaurants has received increasing attention as a policy lever to reduce energy intake. Little research has assessed consumer understanding of overall daily energy requirements or perceived effectiveness of calorie posting.

Methods

A phone survey was conducted from May 1 through 17, 2009 with 663 randomly selected, nationally-representative adults aged 18 and older, including an oversample of Blacks and Hispanics in the United States. To examine differences in responses by race and ethnicity (White, Black, and Hispanic) and gender, we compared responses by conducting chi-squared tests for differences in proportions.

Results

We found that most Americans were knowledgeable about energy requirements for moderately active men (78%) and women (69%), but underestimated energy requirements for inactive adults (60%). Whites had significantly higher caloric literacy and confidence about their caloric knowledge than Blacks and Hispanics (p < 0.05). As compared to their counterparts, Blacks, Hispanics and women reported a significantly higher likelihood of eating at a chain restaurant and of selecting lower calorie foods where caloric information was posted. Most Americans favored the government requiring chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus at the point of purchase (68%). Support for government mandated calorie posting in chain restaurants was significantly higher among Blacks, Hispanics and women as compared to their counterparts. The public was divided about the mode of caloric information that would best help them make a lower calorie decision; a third favored number of calories (35%) which is the current standard mode of presenting caloric information in chain restaurants, a third favored a physical activity equivalent (26%), and a third favored percentage of total energy intake (39%).

Conclusion

Mandating calorie posting in chain restaurants may be a useful policy tool for promoting energy balance, particularly among Blacks, Hispanics and women who have higher obesity risk.