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We miscalculate fast food calories

Kristen Fischer is a copywriter, author and journalist based in New Jersey. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and host on the monthly podcast, Freelance Radio. Learn more about Kristen at www.kristenfischer.com.

Underestimating calories in fast food

A significant number of us underestimate how many calories are really in a fast-food meal, a study shows.

Woman eating fast food

Quick — how many calories are in a Big Mac?

Research published in BMJ, a journal of the British Medical Association, found that many of us are underestimating how many calories are in fast-food meals.

According to the survey, teens underestimated how many calories were in a meal by 34 percent, parents of school-age children got it wrong by 23 percent and adults underjudged the amount of calories by 20 percent.

About 3,400 adults and teens visited 89 fast-food restaurants including Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s, McDonalds, Subway, and Burger King.

People were asked to estimate the calories in their meals during 2010 and 2011. At least 40 percent of participants ate at the restaurant where they were interviewed at least once a week. While more than 20 percent of the adults saw calorie information posted in the restaurant, only 5 percent used that information when making their selection.

"At least two-thirds of all participants underestimated the calorie content of their meals, with about a quarter underestimating the calorie content by at least 500 calories," the authors of the study wrote.

Perhaps next time you pop in for a quick meal, first take a look at that handy board listing calorie counts. Then see what you are really in the mood to eat.

More on healthy eating at fast food restaurants

Fast food choices that won't make you fat
Healthier fast food menu choices
Is fast food a bad parenting choice?

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