Do diners use menu calorie counts to decide what to eat?

Late last year, the Affordable Care Act provision that would require some restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus was supposed to go into action. It's since been delayed a few times, and is being pushed back to 2017.

Still, several restaurants have already started posting calorie count info on their menus. The provision is aimed mostly at fast-food chain restaurants like McDonalds and Starbucks. There's been an interesting correlation that the average calorie count at venues that voluntarily display calorie info is almost half that of restaurants that don't readily share that information.

Regardless, the question remains: Do diners use calorie counts at restaurants to decide what they eat?

TL;DR version: Nope.

Now for the long version...

A poll conducted by KRNV News found that almost two thirds of their readership (63%) don't use calorie counts to decide what they eat. This echoes an earlier, thorough study conducted by NYU's Langore Medical Center, which concluded that posting calorie counts aren't changing the way Americans eat.

The research group looked at more than 7,000 customers in NYC and "found that calorie labels, on their own, have not reduced the overall number of calories that consumers of fast food order and presumably eat."

In short: Americans gonna eat what Americans gonna eat.

A detail of a menu from Applebee's.   (AP Photo/Verena Dobnik)

A detail of a menu from Applebee's. (AP Photo/Verena Dobnik)

We've seen some additional menu labeling laws passed on state and local levels, too. NYC is trying to push through a 'sodium mandate' that would require a warning label put next to any food item that has more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium. NYC council is also trying to push similar laws for sugar and carb warning labels.

On the flip-side, the US House passed what it called the Common Sense Nutrition Act to ease the burden of the menu label mandate for restaurants, so the debate is all over the place at the moment.

If the goal of the provision was to get more Americans to eat healthier, it seems to have missed it's mark. Health education also needs a boost to put all this info into context.

But for restaurant managers and owners afraid that calorie counts may hurt their business, the current American dietary trend says that it won't.