Fast food apps like Deliveroo and UberEats should display calories on menus to persuade customers to eat healthier, experts say
- Putting calories on menus can cut takeout by as much as 15 percent
- Small adjustments to online ordering can have a significant impact on obesity
Fast-food delivery apps should display calorie counts and healthy food options to tackle obesity, new research suggests.
By making healthier foods more prominent and making small portions the default option on apps like Deliveroo, JustEat and UberEats, calories for takeout meals dropped by up to 15 percent.
Regularly used by 25 million UK adults, experts said the small tweaks to online ordering could have a significant impact on obesity.
Dr. Filippo Bianchi, from the Behavioral Insights Team – known as the ‘nudge unit’ – innovation firm Nesta and colleagues from the University of Oxford, conducted a study of 24,000 adults using a simulated delivery app and compared the results with a control app .
Regularly used by 25 million UK adults, experts said the small tweaks to online ordering could have a significant impact on obesity
In one trial, involving 6,000 people, they were divided into groups where they were given a small portion, a small portion branded as ‘regular’ and ‘extra small’ portion size.
The control group could order whatever they wanted, with meals typically containing 1,411 calories, and those given smaller meals typically consumed 177 fewer — 12.5 percent.
A second trial, involving more than 9,000 adults, used four interventions that moved food and restaurants to make lower-calorie options more prominent on the app.
They found that the app with healthier eating options was at the top of menus, and lower-calorie restaurants at the top of the restaurant selection page delivered a 15 percent calorie reduction per order.
This reduced typical calorie intake from 1,382 to 1,173, typical, according to findings published at the European Congress on Obesity in Dublin.
Researchers found that the takeout app, like the Deliveroo pictured above, with healthier food options at the top of the menus and lower-calorie restaurants at the top of the restaurant selection page, delivered a 15 percent calorie reduction per order
“Our findings suggest that simple interventions can help people select low-calorie options in delivery apps without having to remove less healthy options,” said Dr. Bianchi.
“This doesn’t mean we should always trade pizza for green salad — even initiatives that make it easy to make small changes to what we eat can help slowly reduce obesity, if delivered on a large scale.”
The latest trial tested the impact of using seven different calorie label designs to encourage the choice of low-calorie options in 8,780 adults.
Compared to the control app where no calorie information was provided, five of the seven labels significantly reduced the calorie content of orders by between 2 and (33 calories per order) 8 percent (110 calories).
The ability to toggle calorie labels on and off, display recommended energy intake per meal — such as 600 calories for lunch — and avoid things like red fonts to “judgment” people on their high-calorie meals would be welcomed by customers, their research suggested.
Dr. Bianchi added: “These studies provide encouraging proof-of-concept evidence that small tweaks to delivery apps can help many people identify and select healthier foods.
“Testing similar initiatives with real restaurants and delivery apps will be important to assess the long-term impact of these interventions in the real world.
“Further research should also explore the best way to balance the desired health impacts while minimizing impacts on businesses and on consumers’ cost of living.”
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Basic meals based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, preferably whole grains
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat muesli biscuits, 2 thick slices of whole-wheat bread, and a large baked potato with skin
• Provide dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) and choose lower-fat, lower-sugar options
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish per week, one of which is fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small quantities
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water per day
• Adults should have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
Deliveroo and UberEats should put calories on menus to encourage healthier food choices, experts say