Menu Nutritional Information Ignored By More Than Half Of Americans, Survey Shows

08/09/2013 05:57pm ET
FILE - In this March 8, 2010 file photo, the sandwich board at the Panera store in Brookline, Mass shows the calorie count for each item. Diners will have to wait a little longer to find calorie counts on most restaurant chain menus, in supermarkets and on vending machines. Writing a new menu labeling law "has gotten extremely thorny," says the head of the Food and Drug Administration, as the agency tries to figure out who should be covered by it. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

More than half of Americans don't actually pay attention to the nutrition information restaurants put on their menus, according to a new survey.

Specifically, Gallup researchers found that just 43 percent of Americans say they pay "a great deal" or a "fair amount" of attention to nutritional information on menus.

However, 68 percent say they look at the nutritional information on food packages.

"Americans' level of attention to nutritional information in restaurants may increase as the practice of posting such information become more common," the Gallup researchers wrote in their report. "It is possible, though, that people are more flexible when eating out -- and more likely to choose less healthy food options -- than they are when deciding what to purchase at the grocery store."

The survey, which involved telephone interviews conducted last month with 2,027 people, also showed gender and age differences in the level of attention people pay to nutritional information. For instance, 73 percent of women say they pay a great deal/fair amount to food package nutrition information and 49 percent say they pay a great deal or fair amount to menu nutrition information. For men, on the other hand, 61 percent say they pay a great deal or fair amount to nutrition information on food packages and 36 percent say they pay a great deal or fair amount to menu nutrition information.

Young adults -- people ages 18 to 29 -- are the least likely to look at nutrition information, while people ages 50 and up are the most likely to heed it. And college grads are more likely than those with a high school diploma or less to look at nutrition information, the researchers found.

And turns out, it's the self-proclaimed "healthy" ones who are the most likely ones to look at nutrition information, with 48 percent of self-reported "very healthy" people and 50 percent of "somewhat healthy" people looking at nutrition information on food packages, versus 3 percent of "not too/not at all healthy" people. People who look at nutrition information are also less likely to say that they are overweight, and instead gauge their weight at "about right."

Even if people aren't paying attention to menu nutritional information, some research has suggested that it may not even matter anyway, as people don't seem to order fewer calories even if they know how many calories are in the item they're ordering.

What do you think? Do you actually pay attention to nutrition information on menus? If you do, does it influence what you order? Tell us in the comments!

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