What You Get For the Calories

by Charles Platkin, PhD

What You Get For the

The problem? Most people underreport what they eat – in fact, we can underreport the amount of food we eat in a day by as much as 45 percent. According to the National and Nutrition Examination Survey,about 18 percent of the men and 28 percent of the women surveyed were underreporters.

In another study, researchers showed participants nine restaurant entrees, which they classified as ranging from “very unhealthful” to “more healthful,” and provided them with brief descriptions as well as serving-size information. The participants were then asked to estimate the calories and nutrient levels in each of the entrees. What the researchers found is that the underestimation of calories increased as the entrees became increasingly “unhealthful.” On average, less-healthful items were underestimated by more than 600 calories.

And research reported in the Journal of Nutrition showed that even registered dietitians can underestimate their caloric consumption by 16 percent. Other health professionals, including physicians and nurses, are not much better; in one study, 70 percent of the participants over- or underestimated patients’ calorie needs by as much as 13 percent.

The bottom line is that you’re probably eating more than you think. Take a look at the following and see if you’re surprised by how many calories you get for what you’re eating:

What you get for about 10 calories

Minutes to it off* = 2.5

– One Jell-O Sugar Free Snack Cup (3.25 ounces)

– Two strawberries

– 2½ pieces Post Honey Nut Shredded Wheat

– One Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Crackers Original

– Three watermelon balls (11 calories)


What you get for about 25 calories

Minutes to walk it off* = 6.5

– One 10-ounce cucumber

– Six medium white button mushrooms

– Five Cheez-It Snack Crackers (22 calories)

– 1 tablespoon pork fried rice

– 1 cup cauliflower


What you get for about 50 calories

Minutes to walk it off* = 13

– 3 tablespoons ketchup

– 2 tablespoons duck sauce

– 1 tablespoon grape jelly

– One Fig Newton cookie (55 calories)

– One Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookie (53 calories)

– One large bite of pan crust pizza with the works


What you get for about 100 calories

Minutes to walk it off* = 26

– 1 tablespoon mayonnaise

– 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette dressing

– 1 ounce brie cheese

– One (4-ounce) ear yellow corn

– One large eggplant (peeled)

– 1 cup dried cranberries (90 calories)

– One pan-fried Peking dumpling (93 calories)

– ½ cup steamed brown rice (109 calories)


What you get for about 150 calories

Minutes to walk it off* = 39

– 3 slices kosher soft salami

– 2 tablespoons ranch dressing

– 2 tablespoons blue cheese salad dressing

– Two slices bacon

– 4 ounces grilled Pacific halibut

– Nine Stacy’s Parmesan Garlic and Herb Chips (140 calories)


What you get for about 200 calories

Minutes to walk it off* = 51.5

– One (2.5-ounce) pork frankfurter without a bun (204 calories)

– Three large hard-boiled eggs

– One (8-ounce) glass pina colada

– One (16-ounce cup) Starbucks Iced Caffè Mocha with no whipped cream and 2% milk


What you get for about 250 calories

Minutes to walk it off* = 65

– One (2.5-ounce) chocolate cupcake

– One (2-ounce) slice cheesecake

– Two chocolate-covered pretzels (230 calories)

– 1 cup Campbell’s Chunky New England Clam Chowder (210 calories)

– 4 tablespoons macaroni salad (235 calories)


What you get for about 300 calories

Minutes to walk it off* = 77.3

– 7 ounces avocado (322 calories)

– 5 ounces coleslaw (312 calories)

– ½ Panera Bread Chicken Salad on Whole Grain (320 calories)

– 4 ounces broccoli and Cheddar quiche


OK. So now you know the cost of a few foods. See how many of these portion equivalents you get right.


1. One almond

a. 24 calories

b. 2 calories

c. 7 calories

d. 15 calories


2. One Auntie Anne’s Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel

a. 350 calories

b. 450 calories

c. 280 calories

d. 160 calories


3. 1 cup prune juice

a. 120 calories

b. 182 calories

c. 256 calories

d. 75 calories


4. Which has the most calories (about 610)?

a. McDonald’s Bacon Ranch Salad with crispy chicken, croutons and ranch dressing

b. McDonald’s Chocolate Triple Thick Shake (16 ounces)

c. McDonald’s Big Mac

d. Quarter Pounder with Cheese


5. 1 ounce soft goat cheese

a. 100 calories

b. 75 calories

c. 155 calories

d. 220 calories


6. Which has the most calories?

a. Burger King’s Double Whopper

b. Chuck E. Cheese’s Italian Sub with Fries

c. Two KFC Extra Crispy Chicken Breasts with Mashed Potatoes and gravy

d. Denny’s All American Slam (three eggs with Cheddar, bacon, sausage and hash browns)


Answer key: 1-c, 2-b, 3-b, 4-a, 5-b, 6-c (920 calories, 970 calories, 1,020 calories, 820 calories)


*All exercise equivalents are based on a 155-pound person

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