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A new study shows that even when the information is staring them right in the face, teenagers don’t care how many calories are in their burgers and fries. Researchers from New York University surveyed teenagers as they left fast food joints that had nutrition information posted near the counter. The researchers found that only about half the teens even noticed the nutrition information, a quarter of them said that they were conscious of their weight, but only nine percent started buying foods with lower calories. The researchers checked receipts to confirm orders and found that the amount of calories that teenagers were buying were the same before and after New York City started requiring its fast food restaurants to post calorie information.
To me, it makes sense that fewer than one in ten teenagers changed how they eat based on nutrition information. As teenagers, nothing can distract us when we’re hungry. The fact that a Big Mac has 485 calories doesn’t bother us; most of us wouldn’t even blink.
I eat fast food a lot and I’ve never noticed the calorie listings on food items in Oakland. As of last month, all chain restaurants in California are required by law to display a calorie count for each item on their menus. But since I watch fast food commercials, I already know what I want to eat at a McDonald’s before I walk through the door. Sometimes I won’t even look at the menu, which is probably why I haven’t noticed the calorie info.
Another reason we teens don’t pay attention to calories is that McDonalds and Burger King are the closest food places around school and maybe even home. When you’re at lunch and you see your friend with French fries and a burger, you’re not going to want to go make a PB&J sandwich. We go to lunch as a group, and when we see our friends buying food it influences the food we want.
I know some teens care about what they put in their mouth. I have a cousin who checks the back labels on food before she eats something, but when it comes to most teenagers in the world today, we don’t care.