Calorie reality check: What does it really take to burn off that breakfast?

Kristin Chessman is a freelance writer, editor and mom from Southern California with a passion for travel, fashion, Disney, the beach, Italian food and all-things celebrity. Follow Kristin on Twitter @KristinChessman.

How many calories?

Feeling guilty about your indulgent bacon and egg-filled breakfast? Wondering how long it’ll take to burn off those excessive calories? It’s time for a calorie reality check! Read on to discover the truth about calories and exercise.

Woman eating healthy cereal

Before beginning any diet or fitness programs, be sure to consult with your doctor.

What does it really take to burn off that breakfast?


So just what does it take to burn off that breakfast? According to Dr Brian Quebbemann of The New Program in Newport Beach, California, a healthy breakfast will often have less than 400 calories, but a high-fat, high-sugar breakfast can have more than 1,200 calories. Case in point: The Grand Slamwich from Denny's has a whopping 1,310 calories not including hash browns (an extra 210 calories)!

According to Dr Quebbemann, an average person would have to walk or run approximately one mile to burn off 100 calories. Using the above rough estimation, you'd need to walk or run about 13 miles to burn off the Grand Slamwich!

Dr Julie Ellner of San Diego's Alvarado Hospital points out that this calorie calculation varies. "It depends on the person, their muscle mass, age, metabolism, level of hydration and genetics," she said. In addition, Dr Ellner says some foods are more readily "burn-able" than others, making it difficult to calculate exactly how much physical activity is required to burn off a meal. "Our bodies use protein calories differently than they use fats and carbs."

Make the right choices

According to the US Food and Drug Administration's site, FDA.gov, healthy weight management requires a balance between a healthy diet and physical activity.

How can you determine the right diet for you? According to Dr Quebbemann, it's all about finding the right balance for your body. "Since everyone has a slightly different metabolism, their healthy calorie intake will vary," he said.

In general, the FDA recommends a 2,000-calorie daily diet from a variety of food groups.

From there, Dr Quebbemann suggests modifying this number over time as your weight changes. "Remember, though, you need to eat healthy calories in order to maintain this eating pattern for the long-run."

According to the FDA.gov site, it's important to think about calories in terms of servings. The right amount of calories per serving depends on your calorie goal for the day and how you balance your food choices. In general, follow this guide to size up calories in a single serving:

  • 40 calories is low
  • 100 calories is moderate
  • 400 calories is high

As the FDA.gov site points out, breakfast foods offer a great opportunity to maximize your fiber and calcium, while keeping your fat and sodium relatively low. When it comes to getting fiber, check the nutrition label for one serving:

  • 5% DV or less is low
  • 20% DV or more is high

To better understand nutrition labels and calories, check out this interactive slideshow from the CFSAN/Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements:

Low-calorie breakfast options

Check out Dr Quebbemann's low-calorie breakfast ideas:

  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Cottage cheese with a spoonful of honey
  • Omelets or scrambled eggs with one egg yolk, low-fat cheese and chopped vegetables
  • Two slices of whole-grain toast with peanut butter

Dr Ellner suggests saving calories by going against traditional breakfast stereotypes. "I always tell my patients to eat anything for breakfast that they'd eat later in the day," she said. "We're one of the only countries that doesn't eat fish for breakfast. There's nothing wrong with eating meat and vegetables for breakfast -- believe it or not, your body processes them just as well at 8 a.m. as it does at noon!"

Check out this article for the top 10 calorie-burning activities and exercises.

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