Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 89, Issue 4, pp 587-597

First online:

Calorie Postings in Chain Restaurants in a Low-Income Urban Neighborhood: Measuring Practical Utility and Policy Compliance

  • Elizabeth Gross CohnAffiliated withSchool of Nursing Email author 
  • , Elaine L. LarsonAffiliated withSchool of Nursing
  • , Christina AraujoAffiliated withSchool of Nursing
  • , Vanessa SawyerAffiliated withHarlem Hospital Center
  • , Olajide WilliamsAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology

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Current strategies for combating obesity include recent federal legislation mandating calorie count postings in chain restaurants. This study describes the current practice of menu board calorie postings in a low-income urban neighborhood, identifies the extent to which current practice complies with existing policy, and evaluates the practical utility of menu boards to consumers. We conclude that although most postings were legally compliant, they did not demonstrate utility. Menu postings for individual servings are easily understood, but complex math skills are needed to interpret meals designed to serve more than one person. In some items, calories doubled depending on flavor and the calorie posting did not give enough information to make healthier selections. We identified specific strategies to improve practical utility and provide recommendations for policy implementation.


Legislative health policy Obesity Point-of-purchase calorie postings Fast-food