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How Many Calories in Your Fast-Food Meal? Guess Again
Date:5/23/2013

THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- People who eat at fast-food restaurants are consuming significantly more calories than they realize -- and teens are the worst offenders, a new study found.

"Teens underestimate the number of calories in their meals by as much as 34 percent, parents of school-age children by as much as 23 percent, and adults by as much as 20 percent," study lead researcher, Dr. Jason Block, said in a news release from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which helped fund the study.

Block, of the Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, and his colleagues surveyed nearly 3,400 adults, teens and children who ate at 89 fast-food restaurants in four New England cities.

The investigators compared the difference between the number of calories the participants thought was in the fast food they ordered with the actual number of calories in their meal.

The study, published May 24 in BMJ, found the meals ordered by adults contained an average of 836 calories. However, adults thought the food they ordered had 175 fewer calories.

Meanwhile, teens on average underestimated the number of calories in their 756-calorie meal by 259 calories. The study also showed that 25 percent of all participants underestimated the caloric content of their meals by at least 500 calories.

"We also saw differences by food chain," Block said. Adults who ate at Subway were 20 percent less accurate in assessing the calories in the food they ordered than those who went to McDonald's, Burger King, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), Wendy's and Dunkin' Donuts. Teens who ate at Subway were 25 percent less accurate, the researchers added.

"These findings tell us that many people who eat at fast-food restaurants may not be making informed choices because they don't know how many calories they're consuming," Block said. "Having the information is an important first step for anyone wanting to make
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