College Students Must Overcome Barriers to Use Calorie Labels in Fast-Food Restaurants

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Abstract

Objective:

To explore predictors of intention of college students to use calorie labels on fast-food menus and differences in calories ordered after viewing calorie information.

Design:

Quasi-experimental design. Participants selected a meal from a menu without calorie labels, selected a meal from the same menu with calorie labels, and completed a survey that assessed demographics, dietary habits, Theory of Planned Behavior constructs, and potential barriers to use of calorie labeling.

Setting:

A southern university.

Participants:

Undergraduate university students (n = 97).

Main Outcome Measures:

Predictors of intention to use calorie labels and whether calories selected from the nonlabeled menu differed from the labeled menu.

Analysis:

Confirmatory factor analysis, exploratory factor analysis, multiple regression, and paired t tests.

Results:

Participants ordered significantly fewer calories (P = .02) when selecting from the labeled menu vs the menu without labels. Attitudes (P = .006), subjective norms (P < .001), and perceived behavioral control (P = .01) predicted intention to use calorie information but did not predict a difference in the calories ordered. Hunger (P = .03) and cost (P = .04) were barriers to using the calorie information.

Conclusions and Implications:

If students can overcome barriers, calorie labeling could provide information that college students need to select lower-calorie items at fast-food restaurants.

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