Body dissatisfaction and beyond: Investigating attitudes towards calorie labels on UK food menus

Emma Liddiard, Richard J.T. Hamshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In 2022 the British government made calorie labels on menus a legal requirement to encourage healthier food choices while dining out. Yet, little research has explored perceptions of calorie labels on menus in the United Kingdom or tested whether there may be groups of people vulnerable to potential negative effects of calorie labels, such as those with body dissatisfaction. This between-subjects, convergent mixed-methods study addressed these enquiries. Participants were 562 adults who completed an online survey where hypothetical food orders were made from a menu. The study found that participants who viewed a menu with calorie labels ordered fewer calories. Quantitative results did not find that participants with higher levels of body dissatisfaction were at significantly greater odds of using calorie labels to order fewer calories. However, our qualitative (thematic) analysis revealed that experiences of calorie labels could be shaped by body image concerns. Themes further drew on how calorie labels were empowering, but there were also concerns about their oversimplicity. Findings are discussed in relation to implications for future calorie labelling policies. Given the inconsistent findings amongst the limited amount of literature investigating the role of body dissatisfaction in how calorie labels are used, future research is crucial. In the meantime, as a cautionary measure, clinicians involved in supporting individuals with body or food-related concerns should be aware of the challenges their clients may experience in facing calorie labels on menus when dining out.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107418
JournalAppetite
Volume199
Early online date15 May 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 May 2024

Data Availability Statement

Data will be made available on request.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the valuable insights provided by those who were willing to voluntarily take part in this research. The authors would also like to thank Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh for her insightful feedback on the early version of this paper. Finally, we would also like to thank the Maths and Statistics Help (MASH) team at the University of Bath, specifically Emma Cliffe, for advice relating to some elements of the statistical approaches used in this paper.

Keywords

  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Calorie information
  • Food choices
  • Menu labelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

Cite this