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Restaurants That List Calories Are The Healthiest, Study Finds

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If finding a place to eat with healthy options is on your agenda, choose the restaurant that lists calories for its menu options - it's more apt to have healthy foods than a restaurant that doesn't list calories, a recent study reveals.

Calorie labeling, which is required by the Affordable Care Act but won't go into effect for another year, is already present at some chain eateries, like Jamba Juice and Panera.

The findings of the current study suggest the practice may encourage retailers to offer healthier options when they are forced to reveal the calorie-count of offerings.

"The menu items in restaurants with voluntary labeling have fewer average calories than restaurants without labeling," said study co-author Julia A. Wolfson, a PhD candidate in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

A demand for healthier options

The study also found that restaurants with voluntary menu labeling introduced more food options over the course of two years - perhaps because of a consumer demand for healthier options that is encouraged in the presence of transparent labeling, the authors said.

On average, chains with voluntary labeling have 140 fewer calories per item than chains that don't list calories.

"The biggest impact from mandatory menu labeling may come from restaurants decreasing the calories in their menu items," Wolfson said, "rather than expecting consumers to notice the calorie information and, subsequently, order different menu items."

Wolfson hopes the new labeling practices will improve the "restaurant environment" for consumers, inspiring them to eat healthier even when on the go.

Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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