Menus Could Print ‘Exercise Costs’ Along With Calories

Seeing a calorie count next to a bacon cheeseburger doesn’t exactly convince you not to eat, it does it? No, it doesn’t. That’s why there’s a push to put an “exercise cost” next to unhealthy food items to get you, the diner, to make a better choice.

An “exercise cost” is exactly what it sounds like. Let’s say you’re eyeballing a tasty dessert after dinner. The calorie count says, let’s say, 575 calories. That might not be enough to stop you from ordering, but imagine that next to the calories, there is another number: Two hours.

That’s the amount of “intensive walking” you would need to do in order to burn that dessert off. Now maybe you’re second guessing.

The reason is that the “exercise cost” puts calories in context, and that’s exactly what researchers at Texas Christian University thought when they performed a study on “exercise cost.”

The study followed 300 men and women under the age of 30, separated into three groups. Each group got menus with the same food choices. One group had just the food listed. The other had the food and calories. The third group had the food, the calories, and how many minutes of “brisk walking” it would take to burn off each selection.

They found that when confronted with the “exercise cost,” diners ordered less and ate less than those who just received food menus.

Maintaining proper nutrition requires fitness and wise food choices, but calorie intake can be deceptive, since it can be different for everyone. Besides, if all of your daily calories are carbs, you’re missing other vital food groups. So what good is the “exercise cost,” except to unfairly scare restaurant diners?

Well, it will probably help you avoid making nutritional choices that you believe to be harmless.

“If you were to go to a coffee shop and you saw that that muffin that you were going to have with your coffee would take two hours on a treadmill to burn off, you would probably think that’s hardly worth it for a muffin,” registered dietician Leslie Beck offered as an example.

What do you think? Would you make better eating choices if restaurant menus listed the “exercise cost?”

[Image via: Oleg Golovnev,]

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