A few studies link out-of-home eating to higher energy consumption, overweight and obesity in both adults and children. The present study was undertaken to investigate the nutritional value of meals available in a university cafeteria, in order to develop a target nutritional tool to help consumers make a more conscious nutritional choice. DESIGN: A cross-sectional study. SETTING: In a university cafeteria in Pavia, northern Italy, the recipes and ingredients of each meal served during the whole year were obtained from the cooks. Energy, protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre contents were computed for each meal standardized portion. Thirteen pyramid figures, subdivided into three coloured levels, were used to depict the energy and nutrient content of each meal. SUBJECTS: Four hundred randomly selected customers were interviewed on the cafeteria nutritional proposal. RESULTS: Foods available in the cafeteria consisted of 216 items and were distributed in the pyramids according to their energy content: the lowest ones at the bottom (green level) and the highest ones at the top (red level), passing through an orange level in the middle. Energy values ranged from 460 kJ (110 kcal) for a portion of dressed vegetables to 5021 kJ (1200 kcal) for a pizza. The depicted pyramids were displayed in the cafeteria, so that customers could choose their meal according to its nutritional value. The meals' nutritional content information was perceived very helpful for customers' nutritional choices. CONCLUSIONS: Availability of nutrition information in the cafeteria was well accepted by the customers who could plan their meals according to a more balanced diet.
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