It’s a busy day. You don’t have time to cook. On your way back from that late soccer practice, you swing by the fast food restaurant and order burgers, drinks and fries for the kids. But do you really know how many calories you are giving those kids or yourself for that matter?
According to a new study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, you may not.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute found that teens underestimate the calories in fast food 34% of the time; parents of school-age children by 23%; and adults by 20%. About a quarter of the people studied underestimated their meals by 500 calories! And interestingly, diners at Subway underestimated their calories more than diners at Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC, Wendy’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. This finding confirms another study that was recently in the news about Subway and McDonald diners eating about the same calories. I would guess that because Subway has been associated with weight loss, many people order high calorie foods thinking they are being more calorie conscious.
Personally I have a fast food app that is very helpful in making decisions when I find myself at these dining places. I am often surprised by the total calories in many items that sound slimming. Sometimes the restaurant posts the calories, other times you can go to their websites.
Now, I know most of you won’t take the time to regularly look up the menu items so here is what I suggest. Look up the items you most often order. Check the calories. Then look for items you like that have lower calories and order those instead. I do that with Taco Bell, the one fast food restaurant I sometimes frequent when out and about. I know which items are the lowest in calories and fat and order those. Honestly, this strategy works because it still gives me the option to run through the drive through in a pinch.
So check out that burger and fries and learn things like how many calories you save at Five Guys by just removing the cheese from your order! Come on people, we can do this!