Should Boston Menus Have Calorie Counts?

Why hasn't Boston adopted calories on menus like New York City?

View Larger Map
You’d have to walk from Fenway Park to the Seaport to burn off that burger.

The next time you order a hamburger, if the menu also told you that you’d need to walk from Fenway Park to the Seaport in order to burn it off, would you still order it?

In New York City the calorie counts are on everything. Here in Boston, we are lucky to finally have Pret a Manger which lists calories on everything it sells, but no one is required to list them. Why doesn’t Boston adopt a similar policy? New Yorkers get to know what the calorie count is on pretty much every food item they purchase. But are calorie counts even enough? A new study from the University of North Carolina reports that people who saw a visual on how much physical activity they’d have to do to burn off a menu item ordered 200 calories less than those who saw no nutritional information. The findings appear in the March 2013 journal, Appetite. According to the Scientific American:

The physical activity labeling for walking was based on the energy expenditure of a 160-pound adult walking at a rate of 30 minutes per mile—so a “regular burger” was, for example, listed as containing 250 calories, the equivalent amount burned in 2.6 miles, or 78 minutes of walking.

We are all for this idea. We’ve said for a while that we wish Boston had calorie counts on menus like they do in NYC, but this is even better. How cool would it be to see the visuals of how far you’d actually have to walk just to burn off that order of French fries? Seeing a map of exactly how far you’d have to walk per food item is brilliant. Maybe then we’d think twice about ordering that cupcake the size of a person’s head, or that large soda cup that an entire bottle of wine could fit in. Now, that’s real food for thought.