In late 2015, restaurant chains nationwide will begin posting calorie counts for their menu items as required by a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Public health experts hope that this information will help Americans make more appropriate food choices, but it is also important for Americans to understand the calorie content of their choices in the context of their overall caloric needs.
The law requires restaurant chains to visibly post both calories and a contextual statement explaining that a 2,000 calorie daily diet is used as a guideline for most adults. Leveraging the periodicity of Monday to raise additional awareness about the 2,000 calorie guideline a great way for public health professionals to translate the policies of menu labeling into concrete behaviors that will truly improve the out-of-home eating habits of the American public.
Public health professionals and media can also encourage consumers to “Do the Monday 2000.” While daily calorie tracking is difficult for most adults to do, tracking food choices once a week, on Mondays, can help the consumers develop the context they need to make calorically appropriate food choices other days of the week.
In order to identify effective strategies for promoting calorie labeling, Johns Hopkins conducted a study in the cafeteria of the university’s Medical Center to determine if weekly email or text messages could make people more aware of calorie limits and encourage them to eat less. The study was published by Health Promotion Practice.
The study found that only 43% of college educated respondents knew about the 2000 calorie intake recommendation, underscoring the importance of promoting awareness of the recommendation as part of any calorie labeling initiative. Approximately one-third of participants who received text messages felt the information they received on Mondays increased their awareness of calorie consumption and helped them eat fewer calories throughout the rest of the week.