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Keywords:

  • caloric information;
  • cafeteria;
  • eating behavior;
  • food choices

We evaluated the effect of posting caloric information on food purchases at a cafeteria. Purchases of more than 14,300 entrees, vegetables, and salads by 6,970 customers were unobtrusively monitored via the cash register inventory control system during 15 evening observations. A quasi-multiple-baseline design across food groups was used to test the additive effect of labeling the three lowest caloric choices for vegetables, salads, and entrees. A linear logit analysis confirmed that labeling increased the probability of low calorie selections for vegetables and salads, but not for entrees. Observations of meals purchased by a subsample of 413 customers indicated labeling did not change the total caloric content of meals. The number of customers and total sales per evening were unaffected by the labeling intervention. The results suggest that manipulating environmental cues may be an effective method for changing food purchases in a cafeteria, but labeling individual items may not be the best way to decrease total calories purchased.