A new study shows most American adults are unaware that FDA’s nutrition labels are based on 2,000-calorie-a-day diets, though a simple text message reminder can go a long way.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health surveyed 246 participants dining at the hospital cafeteria to assess their initial knowledge of the 2,000-calorie value. Food in the cafeteria included calorie labels but no information on daily context. Over the course of four weeks, participants were randomly assigned to receive reminders of the calorie value through text, email or none at all.
After the study, those who received text messages were twice as likely to correctly identify the 2,000-calorie value as compared to those who received no weekly reminder.
“While daily energy needs vary, the 2,000-calorie value provides a general frame of reference that can make menu and product nutrition labels more meaningful,” said study leader Lawrence J. Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “When people know their calorie ‘budget’ for the day, they have context for making healthier meal and snack choices.”
According to Johns Hopkins, the reminders were based on The Monday Campaigns’ model for health communications, that bases itself on the idea that Monday provides a “start fresh” to the week an opportunity for people to commit to new healthy habits, such as exercise regimens, healthy eating plans or smoking cessation.
“There are many simple ways to convey calorie information to consumers, including point of sale communication, text messages, emails and even smart phone apps,” Cheskin said. “Ideally, these could work together, with calories posted on menus, restaurant signage and food labels along with personal reminders delivered through the latest technology. Our data indicate that weekly text messages are one element in this mix that can be effective.”