Give parents calorie counts and they order fewer calories

Those who had calorie counts on menus ordered 20% fewer calories for their kids, on average, than those who did not have the data. Parents ordered the same number of calories for themselves.

Give parents the calorie counts on fast food and they will order smaller meals for their kids.

In the University of Washington study about 100 parents and kids were given fake fast food menus. Some of the parents' menus included calorie counts. The kids' menus did not.

Those who had calorie counts on menus ordered 20% fewer calories for their kids, on average, than those who did not have the data. Parents ordered the same number of calories for themselves.

The results were adjusted for gender, race, education, how fat the parent was, fast-food frequency, and how fat the kids were. They were consistent across all groups.

The researchers said about half of all big fast food chains offer nutrition information at their stores, while the vast majority have the data on their Web sites.

The best way to follow-up on this study would be to do it at a real restaurant. Send parents in with data from Web sites and compare what's ordered for the kids compared with what's ordered when the data is not available.

That's the important point. In most cases the data is available to the seller. It's just not being given in a convenient way to the buyer.