Did You Know? You Probably Underestimate Calories When Eating Out

Posted On Sunday, 09 June 2013
Did You Know? You Probably Underestimate Calories When Eating Out
Recently on the YOU The Owner’s Manual Radio Show, we featured a top medical story about how to prevent 80% of chronic disease. It related to food choices and portion size.

Wait! Don’t stop reading!

It really does get more interesting, because if each of us paid as much attention to restaurant menus as some my friends do to NBA scoring, we could save 600 billion a year at least. A year!

That would make North America as competitive for jobs as for energy independence. You’d be patriotic. And we are being helped…most fast food restaurants have added an additional column of numbers on their menu. The new column contains the calorie content of the food items. However, apparently not too many people have taken an interest in the new information provided to help Americans get healthier. A new study published in May 2013 highlights the ineffective attempt to encourage people to moderate calories.

Nearly 2/3 of adults, adolescent, and school age children underestimated the number of calories in their fast food meal....and not by a little.

The researchers visited 89 fast food restaurant chains in four cities in New England, hitting McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, KFC, and Dunkin’ Donuts. The researchers interviewed the participants at the fast food chain restaurants between 5:15-7:30pm by administering surveys outside the entrance of the restaurant or on a nearby sidewalk. They collected responses from a final sample size of 1,877 adults, 1,178 adolescents, and 330 school age children. The participants were asked to estimate the number of calories in what they each ate, and then collected receipts to compare the estimates to the actual calories. 

The adult’s meals contained an average of 836 calories. The difference between the estimated calories and the actual number of calories was 175.  Adults underestimated their calorie intake more at Subway and Burger King compared to the other fast food chain restaurants.

The average number of calories found in the meals of the adolescents and school age children were 756 and 733 calories, respectively. The adolescents and school-aged children underestimated the meal’s calorie content by 259 and 175 calories. Similar to adults, the adolescent population had greater underestimated calories at Subway restaurants.

And this didn’t even include if the healthful parts of the food (veggies) were being contaminated by unhealthful components such as luncheon meats, cheese and saturated fat laden mayo. That is worse than just eating more by eating out, you may be slowly poisoned by foods that promote disease.  

Is poisoned too strong a phrase? Maybe, but as illness is the net end effect of unhealthful food, is it really too harsh a word?

An easier to tolerate concept is to cook with healthful components all of the time. Despite the evident toll that dining out can have on a person’s wallet and waist size, restaurants astonishingly continue to thrive as the popularity of eating out continues to increase. Sales at eating and drinking establishments reached an all-time high in April, hitting $45.9 billion. You’d be patriotic by ignoring the ads and doing it yourself.

Instead of worrying about counting calories and if the food they are sneaking in is healthful, start focusing on cooking at home. Eating from your own kitchen table gives you most importantly—your health. The good news is that if you have time to dine out, you have time to cook at home and you might even end up with a few minutes to spare.

Add these inexpensive, versatile foods to your shopping list and start cooking up a storm!

  1. Stir-fry
  • Brown rice
  • Frozen sauté vegetables
  1. Egg white omelets
  • Egg whites
  • Broccoli
  • Yellow or Green Bell Pepper
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  1. Baked Potato Bar
  • Potatoes
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Kidney Beans
  1. Stuffed Veggie Pizzas or Tortillas
  • 100% whole wheat crust
  • The Stir sautéed veggies above
  • Frozen corn
  • Frozen spinach
  • Salsa
  • Low-fat mozzarella cheese
  • Black Beans
No more slow poisoning or underestimating calories! By cooking at home, you ‘ll take back control of your heath, vitality, and be patriotic, too.

So here is your (#16)  “Roizen Rule For A Younger You ®”: Learn to cook and you’ll get 12 years younger twice as fast!

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Mike Roizen

Questions—just send 'em to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Michael Roizen, MD

Dr. Mike is a New York Times #1 bestselling author and co-founder of the well-known RealAge.com website, along with Dr. Mehmet Oz. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic and health expert on Oprah.

Dr. Mike hosts the popular YOU The Owner's Manual Radio Show here on RadioMD.com, and on radio stations nationwide.

You can also visit his latest partnership with Dr. Oz at YOUBeauty.com.

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