Harvard Men's Health Watch

Fast food packs unexpected calories

Patrons of fast-food restaurants consistently underestimate the number of calories in their meals, says a study in BMJ. The larger the meals, the more the diners fell short in guessing how many calories they were eating. The study involved more than 3,000 adults with school-age children and adolescents. They estimated the calorie content in lunch or dinner eaten at McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Wendy's, KFC, and Dunkin' Donuts. The adults ate meals that, on average, contained 733 calories, but underestimated this amount by 175 calories—a 24% shortfall. A quarter of the participants underestimated by as much as 500 calories. Fast-food meals often contain excessive amounts of sodium and, this study suggests, more calories than people realize. This adds to the considerable evidence that regular fast-food dining undermines a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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