Actually, Consumers Don’t Need More Nutrition Info On Restaurant Menus

When it comes to influencing what Americans will order at a restaurant, a picture is worth a thousand words — or roughly six billion dollars, which is what restaurants spent on advertising in the U.S. in 2011, according to Kantar Media. We should consider that for a moment.

It’s largely believed that education is the answer to our ever-widening waistlines. There’s a push to help adults and children better understand nutrition principles, and to make restaurants disclose more details about the content of our food. But is it helping?

With nutrition advice dispensed from every lifestyle magazine, TV news program and relative’s lips, one would guess we have enough facts to fuel a lifetime of spinach omelet and Greek yogurt restaurant orders.

Yet we continue to struggle with smart choices when dining out.

Despite copious free nutrition guidance, despite a real desire to eat healthy and despite increasingly mandatory calorie counts and recommendations on menus, we’re still tugged toward the pancakes afloat in maple syrup.

Nutrition information is important, but it’s only one piece of the healthy eating puzzle — usually, the piece that’s easiest to ignore. We can take a cue from marketers on this one: What we need is not more facts. It’s more pictures.

Why Unhealthy Food is Winning

When it comes to choosing which sandwich to have, there are two mental processes in effect, explains Debora Thompson, an associate professor of marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. One is our conscious attention to the sandwich. The other is our non-conscious “gut” response to it. Pictures, she says, tend to trump facts in both processes.

For more, please read the full post over at U.S. News Eat + Run blog

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I’m a health writer and graduate student. I'm interested in the wily side of health – self sabotage, persuasion, and why health campaigns so often manage to inadvertently piss people off.

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