Teenagers buy fewer sugary drinks with posted calorie count
December 15th, 2011
04:01 PM ET

Teenagers buy fewer sugary drinks with posted calorie count

Signs that bring attention to the number of calories in sugary beverages have the power to dissuade teens from buying them, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Previous research has shown that the average American teenager drinks approximately 300 calories a day in sugar-sweetened beverages including soda, which can lead to obesity and other related health problems.

"Most consumers underestimate the number of calories in a can of soda, and they often do not realize that such calories can add up quickly," lead researcher Sara Bleich said in a press release about the study.

The study's authors used three methods to try to discourage teens from purchasing sugary drinks in a convenience store. The first sign posted noted that a typical bottle contains 250 calories. The second sign said the bottle contains around 10% of the average teenager's daily recommended calories. The third sign told teens they would have to jog for 50 minutes to burn off the calories in the drink.

Researchers found that all three signs reduced the odds that teenagers would buy a sugar-sweetened drink by approximately 40%, but that the third option reduced the odds by 50%. Teens faced with this information instead chose to purchase water or diet soda.

In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to require chain restaurants and retail food establishments - companies whose primary business is selling food - with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on their menus. The rule would also require calorie counts on vending machines. The calorie information would have to be "displayed clearly and prominently" and be listed per item or per serving, according to the FDA's website.

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Pushing regulations down the American's throat is not going to change restaurant eating habits. It's just gonna increase the price by having the calorie counter in McDonald's. Sloth begins at home...If you eat Fatback at home every day, going out one night to calorie count isn't gonna make you thin.

    December 15, 2011 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lisa

      I love the idea of having calorie counts posted. That way I can choose whether I want to eat it or not. Doesn't sound too bad, does it Portland? Open your mind. Please.

      December 15, 2011 at 18:12 | Report abuse |
    • lisa

      Another thing, Tony. Didn't you notice in the article that teenagers ARE drinking less soda when the calorie counts are posted? That flies in the face of what you just said. What you have is called "willfull ignorance".

      December 15, 2011 at 18:20 | Report abuse |
    • rs1201

      you're an idiot. It's a mindset that one has to be in...always being aware of what goes past one's lips and down to one's stomach. Just stuffing your face without any awareness leads to the 200 pounders out there!!!

      December 15, 2011 at 19:43 | Report abuse |
    • Kitty

      And forcing me to pay higher healthcare costs because people act irresponsible with food, get obese and get sick is ok? Why should I, who doesn't even eat ketchup because it has sugar in it, be forced to pay for all those out there who won't at least educate themselves about healthy eating. At least with posting calories, you can make a little more informed choice. I think it is time the government steps in and does something about it. This is a start. This obesity epidemic needs to get under control. It is completely absurd that we have an epidemic like this.

      December 15, 2011 at 20:10 | Report abuse |
    • J

      Stop talking son. I'll rip that badge right off your puffed out chest.


      December 16, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      Food Chemicals are the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis not calories

      The FDA and Drug makers know this and are laughing to the Billionaire$$$ bank

      The food chemicals break the gut(insulin) and this is the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis

      A filmmaker has been reversing diabetes and Obesity WITHOUT MEDICATIONS in now 10 countries and the drug makers do not promote the story

      just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

      December 18, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse |
    • Charles Gilman

      Did you read the article? It DID change eating habits.

      December 19, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse |
  2. Dio

    Why oh why American companies do not get it? They can sell soooo much food that contains little calories. People would stuff their face all day long with 1-calorie hot dogs and donuts. But Nooooooo! Have to stuff everything with tons of calories and then moan that nobody wants to eat it.

    December 15, 2011 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Spacetime

      Do you know what a calorie is?

      December 16, 2011 at 08:51 | Report abuse |
    • MashaSobaka

      Wow. I never thought I'd encounter someone who doesn't know what a calorie is, but...yeah. I think I just did.

      December 16, 2011 at 22:27 | Report abuse |
    • JLS639

      How do you make a 1-calorie hot dog or donut?

      December 18, 2011 at 07:49 | Report abuse |
  3. Portland tony

    My point was if your eating habits are out of control at home, scanning a menu for calories before a night out is not going to make you healthy. And the highly suspect survey did say that teens switched to sugarless diet drinks.

    December 15, 2011 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lisa

      If I'm at a restaurant with my family, I may be tempted to order something on the menu and may look like it is low in calories. You'd be surprised how deceiving that is. It could have as many as 1500 calories and you would have no idea. I'm just saying I'd like to make an informed decision.
      Also, what about people that are on Weight Watchers. They get say, 25 points in a day, that they can have. Without nutrition information, they won't know how many points to count. Or if they want the dessert, they can cut back on something else.
      Clearly, if you're sitting around eating Big Mac's, you probably have a pretty good idea how many calories are in it. Or do you?

      December 17, 2011 at 12:11 | Report abuse |
    • culuriel

      Tony, This is the same as making food manufacturers list the ingredients, calories, and nutritional value (if any) of packaged food, only it's on the menu. NYC already does this. It's just a part of informed consent. Sure, I'll take responsibility for what I shove in my mouth, but I have a right to know what that is, even when eating out. No, it doesn't always keep me from ordering something sweet or high-calorie- but it does about 30% of the time, which helps both the wallet and the waistline. Good move by the FDA.

      December 19, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
  4. palmkrawler

    I went from 300+ pounds to 175lbs (I am 6'1). One of the changes, along with the many others, was to not drink calories. There is no reason to drink calories. Stick to water and diet green tea and the occassional doet soda.

    December 16, 2011 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • A

      "Diet" green tea? Green tea has 0 calories, as do all teas.

      December 16, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
    • Rose

      They are surely talking about a prepackaged, preservative filled tea drink. They have to have a "diet" version bebause it is just automatic that the regular version is pumped full of high-fructose corn syrup. It is crazy to think that people will routinely spend $1-2 on these packaged drinks when you can buy a box of 20 organic tea bags for about $5 and sweeten with honey or agave nectar if neccesary!

      December 17, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse |
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    December 16, 2011 at 06:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. winterfling

    I was in San Diego two weeks ago and was astonished to see the calorie count of each dish on the menu listed next to it. I It definitely tempered my choice of what to order. No opinion, just an observation.

    December 16, 2011 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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    December 16, 2011 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ally

    I'm on the fence about this one. On the one hand, I do a lot of calorie research before I eat somewhere, so I'd love it if I just had this info at my fingertips. On the other hand, I don't like restaurants being forced to all do the same thing just because so many people don't take responsibility for what they're putting into their mouths. I mean....how could someone NOT know that regular soda has a couple hundred calories in it?

    December 16, 2011 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MashaSobaka

      People are ignorant. While it seems silly to say that they need to be protected from their own ignorance, they frequently do. Excessive sugar and high calorie counts cause health problems. Health problems need to be taken seriously. Calorie counts posted on menus, vending machines, and such qualifies as taking it seriously. I'm all for it.

      December 16, 2011 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
    • JLS639

      A lot of calorie count information out there on the internet and books is outdated. Restaurants will change their recipies. The authors of "Eat This, Not That" found that within a year of their book becomming a best seller, several restaurants had altered the recipies to increase the calorie counts of recommended items, possibly to increase their popularity.

      December 18, 2011 at 07:56 | Report abuse |
  9. lucy2

    As someone who is trying to watch calories and get healthier, I'd personally love to have all the calorie info readily available. I don't know if every restaurant must be mandated to do it, but it's nice to have the info given. Right now I look it all up on my own, which is fine, but it would be easier at restaurants.
    I suspect some places won't want to do this because many people would freak out if they knew the calories in some of the meals. But maybe it would also encourage them to prepare healthier food, where one meal doesn't equal more than a whole day's worth of calories.

    December 16, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Estela

      I totally agree. A lot of times I order something even though it *might* be unhealthy, just because I don't really know how unhealthy it is. If the calorie count was posted, I'd probably pick something healthier!

      December 16, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse |
    • Ally

      I would like to have the calorie info put out there as well, lucy. My other problem with mandating it is the issue we've already seen with some chains volunteering their NI. Some people tested the food and found the information on nutrition and calories was variable from dish to dish. ANd I can just see people freaking out that their hamburger and fries was 2000 calories...and you said it would be 1800!!!! And sue the restaurant. It's just a rabbit hole I'm not sure I want to go down.

      December 16, 2011 at 16:22 | Report abuse |
  10. Eric

    I saw the calorie counts at the Cheesecake Factory for the cheesecakes. At first, I thought it was for the whole cake. Then I realized it was just for a SLICE. Some of them were over 1000 calories!

    December 16, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. LaLa

    As a prent of a nutrition student, I can tell you what the article leaves out. DIET drinks are linked to more obesity than reg soda. DIET drinks are the devil.........go for gool ole water.........

    December 16, 2011 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tabbi

      and to cancer and increased asthma

      December 17, 2011 at 08:38 | Report abuse |
  12. MashaSobaka

    When people refuse to do their own research and keep themselves informed, we have to shove the information in their face. I see no problem with doing so.

    December 16, 2011 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Henry

    i honestly love this. I use to eat whatever whenever when i turned 22 i just got sick of sugar it's in everything. I was upset one day that i couldn't get water anywere not in my school not at the cafateria and not at the vending machine i then tried to look for a drink with the least calories and guess what you can't see it becuase the vending machines show you the stupid drinks logo rather then the health information im glad this is happening if companies can't get it together then the Gov has to step in It's not just our responsibility companies need to stop exploiting marketing. Our parents rew up with this and we grew up with this everyone thinks it's normal people need to wake up

    December 17, 2011 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • thinker

      Question 1: Your school had no water fountains?

      Question 2: Your school did not require punctuation?

      December 19, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
  14. RosaFranklin

    LOVE this. I have struggled with my weight for some time, and to be perfectly honest, a lot of it had to do with my own ignorance about what I was eating. I was young and I didn't think to look at the nutrition labels, I didn't bother to count my calorie intake each day, I just told myself that each treat was a unique situation (even though I treated myself a fair bit). Same deal with restaurants – I never ate out much anyway, but when I did, I just ate in blissful ignorance. Since educating myself more on nutrition and calories and so forth, I've been able to lose quite a lot of weight, and it definitely helps to know restaurant nutrition information. Sometimes, you just can't help going out to eat because your family is going for a celebration of some kind or you have a work function at a restaurant. In those cases, I try to look up nutrition information beforehand and it ALWAYS influences what I order. I freaked about going to Panera for breakfast once because I assumed everything was super-high calorie, but they have a Breakfast Power Sandwich that is somewhere around 300 calories that is now my go-to order whenever I get dragged to Panera. I never realized how many calories a Chipotle burrito was (they are seriously about 1,000 calories or more) – and let me tell you, those calorie counts they provide these days are completely misleading – but finding accurate nutrition information online led me to alter my order on the rare occasions when I treat myself to a burrito. I think a lot of people would change their orders if they knew the calorie content of the food at a restaurant, and I am all in favor of everyone being informed when it comes to health and nutrition. I always look for the "light" section of the menu, and I typically try to avoid restaurants that don't offer lighter fare. I think this will become increasingly common behavior as more and more people spread the importance of nutritional awareness, so advertising calorie counts and so forth can really benefit restaurants that make the effort to include a variety of delicious AND relatively healthy options.

    December 18, 2011 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Vikas

    Diet soda drinks are not good either when it comes to over all health & one considers there health side-effects.

    December 18, 2011 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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  17. callitaday79

    As somebody who has kept almost 70 lbs for over a year and a half, this would be a G-dsend! I live in Kentucky which is one of the unhealthiest states in the nation. I also do WW, so knowing the NI beforehand would make calculating the points easier.

    December 18, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. dejah

    Letting people know what's in the food they're eating (whether it's calories or cholesterol or sugar or whatever) is NOT the government shoving stuff down our throats. It's called being an informed consumer, Tony. Get over it. Get over yourself. And get your ass out of that computer chair and get some exercise, while you're at it.

    December 18, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. ss

    Of course the information about what's in our food would be helpful, if you got good information. Manufactures of some processed meat products have small amounts of bone that the FDA allows to be listed as calcium. When we start counting calories, what deception method will be used there?

    December 19, 2011 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Beverly NC

    Obesity is at a ridiculous level thanks to the food industry. Show the calories as they really are – not 1/4 of the can when people are going to drink the whole can. Stop the games. Take the sugar out of our food and stop lying on the labels by using laughable portion sizes to try to fool people. No one eats 3 chips or 1/4 cup of cereal. Stop the lies and help stop the obesity. Food companies are killing off their customers and running up medical costs.

    December 19, 2011 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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