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Calorie Counts Affect Parents' Fast Food Choices for Children

When menus include nutritional information, parents choose lower-calorie meals for their kids

MONDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- If they are aware of the calorie counts of fast food choices, parents will order lower-calorie foods for their young children, though they may not order lower-calorie foods for themselves, according to a study published online Jan. 25 in Pediatrics.

Pooja S. Tandon, M.D., of the Seattle Children's Research Institute, and colleagues randomized 99 parents of children aged 3 to 6 years at a primary care pediatric clinic to be presented with either a McDonald's menu without nutritional information or an identical McDonald's menu with nutritional information. The parents were asked to order a meal for themselves and their child, and the researchers calculated the differences in calories between the meals ordered by the two groups.

On average, the authors found that the parents in the study group ordered a meal for their children with more than 100 fewer calories (567.1 versus 671.5 cal) than the parents in the control group. There was no difference between the groups in the calorie count of the meals ordered by the parents for themselves.

"As various jurisdictions consider and enact menu labeling laws, additional research is needed to understand the impact of this public health regulation as a strategy to improve consumer awareness and to curb the obesity epidemic," the authors write.

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