Study: Diners Underestimate Calories In Fast Food Meals

study diners underestimate calories in fast food mealsApparently it’s easy to overestimate the calories in some of the most popular fast food meals. A study conducted by the British Medical Journal followed 3,400 adults, teens and young children in 89 fast food restaurants in the United States during 2010 and 2011. Results revealed that many people do not have an understanding of proper calorie counting. To learn how to read nutrition labels, taking online cooking courses could be helpful.

“We found that people, especially teens, are consuming more calories than they think they’re getting when they eat fast food,” said Jason Block, MD, MPH, of the Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and lead researcher of the study. “Teens underestimate the number of calories in their meals by as much as 34 percent, parents of school-age children by as much as 23 percent and adults by as much as 20 percent.”

According to the study, the number of calories for each group was as follows: 836 for adults, 756 for teens and 733 for grade school children. In the concluding remarks, scientists suggested that larger meals, especially, were where subjects faltered in their calorie counting. In addition, diners who ate at Subway restaurants underestimated the calories in their orders by a larger discrepancy than diners at McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Wendy’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, suggesting that consumers may be misguided.

“These large underestimations show that diners don’t really know what they are eating in terms of calorie content, and they need this information to help guide their choices,” Block told USA Today.

Block said he was hopeful for changes to be made to the nutritional systems at fast food restaurants, allowing consumers to see the number of calories in foods directly in front of them on the menus.

“They could get it from the company websites or in some other form in the restaurants, such as wall posters, napkins or cups, but soon they’ll be directly faced with it when they see it on the restaurant menu boards before they order their meal,” Block told the source. “Customers can already do this at McDonald’s – and in some cities.”

This research comes after a study conducted in King County, Wash., that followed 7,300 people ages 14 and older who dined at 10 restaurant chains before and after a mandatory food labeling law went into effect. The nutritional labels in the city were required to be on a menu board or a table menu. Although research showed that no changes were accounted for during the study, Health Day reported that after 18 months, the average calories per purchase at chain restaurants fell from 908 calories to 870.

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