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Fast-food eaters underestimate calories

from cnn health

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Next time you go out for that big burger, bucket of fries and super-sized soda, you better bring along your calculator just to be safe.

Most people, no matter how large or small they are, tend to underestimate how many calories are in fast-food meals -- a big problem as portion sizes have ballooned, a new study has found.

People make more accurate guesses when determining the calories in smaller meals, according to the results of the study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"This is not an issue of knowledge, of motivational biases that people want to lie (about what they eat). It's just ingrained perceptual bias that we can't control," said Pierre Chandon, a co-author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at the international business school INSEAD in Fontainebleau near Paris, France.

The study was broken up into two parts. First, researchers asked 105 people eating at fast-food restaurants in three U.S. Midwestern cities to estimate the number of calories in the meals they had just eaten.

In the second part of the study, 40 undergraduate students were asked to estimate the number of calories in 15 sizes of a fast-food meal. The meals, varying in calories from 445 to 1780 calories, consisted of chicken nuggets, fries and soda in varying amounts.

The results were similar no matter how much the participants weighed or whether they were male or female, the researchers found. However, overweight people in the first part of the study tended to buy larger meals, accounting for why they were more inclined to eat more calories than smaller people.

"It's good news because it takes the real stigma out of saying, 'Heavy people just don't get it,"' said Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Weight Management Center. "That's not true. What this study shows is it's the amount of food on the plate that's fooling people."

Fernstrom, who was not involved in the study, said as portions have gotten larger, it has been harder for people to estimate what a standard portion should be. The amount people should eat seems puny compared to the mounds of food we have become used to seeing on our plates, she said.

"This is showing human foibles. It's hard to estimate food. And it's really hard to estimate huge portions," Fernstrom said.

Doctors say there are many strategies people can use so they do not make the mistake of underestimating their calories.

Chandon, speaking by phone from Paris, suggested people divide their food into different components to try to determine the calories, instead of looking at the large meal all together.

Fernstrom suggests people eat smaller portions, use a smaller plate so the meal looks larger, and downsize -- not super-size --meals when they eat out.

"The idea here is that you can always get more food" if you are hungry, Fernstrom said. "If you cut your portions down, at least you have a fighting chance."

Food Track: September 6th, 2006

My day started off bad.  I didn't eat any breakfast and it made me dizzy and cranky.  So I ate a high fat lunch, which didn't make me feel much better aside from the fact that I didn't feel sick anymore.

Dinner was very minimal, with some steamed green beans w/ garlic and 2 hot dogs on wheat bread.  

I ended up being BELOW the recommend caloric intake of 1200!  Which is probably why I was starving this morning and ate oatmeal.

Anyway... here is yesterday's food track:

Breakfast
(none)

Lunch
Chinese, Wonton Soup, 3 wontons, 0.5 serving, 170 cals
Chinese, Garlic Shrimp, 4 oz shrimp, 1 serving, 229 cals

Dinner
Green Beans (snap), 2 cup, 68 cals
Butter, salted, 1 tbsp, 102 cals
Garlic, 1 clove, 4 cals
Hot dog, 2 sandwich, 484 cals
Hunt's Ketchup, 1 tbsp, 15 cals
Yellow Mustard, 1 tsp or 1 packet, 3 cals

Daily Total: 1076 cals
Daily Goal:  1200-1550 cals

Yesterday's HORRIBLE eating tab...

Forgive me fellow foodtrackers, for I have sinned!

I started yesterday on a good foot.  By dinnertime, I had only consumed a little over 800 calories and that was good (considering my suggested caloric intake is 1200-1550).  But then I cracked.  My boyfriend and I got into a fight.  We live together, so it was a serious fight that we couldnt' escape from.  When we were done, and all made up, we realized that we were starving... and ate... *hides face in shame* McDonalds.  EEK!

I am well aware of this HORRIBLE decision and I'm going to work really hard on not being an emotional eater.  

So without further adeu...

Breakfast
Waffles, frozen, 2 waffle, round (4" dia) (include frozen), 174 calories
Butter, salted, 2 pat (1" sq, 1/3" high), 72 calories
Maple Syrup, 2 tbsp, 104 calories

Lunch
Ramen Noodles, Oriental flavor, 1 serving, 190 calories
Turkey breast meat, 5 slices, 111 calories
Thousand Island Salad Dressing, 2 tbsp, 115 calories
Bread, wheat (including toast), 2 slice, 130 calories

Dinner
McDonalds Big Mac, 1 serving, 560 calories
McDonalds 6 Piece Chicken McNuggets, 1/2 serving, 125 calories

Snack
Hershey Kisses (one kiss), 5 serving, 128 calories

Total Calories
1709

UPDATE

This is kind of random, but I love this community. I have only been here a few days (no more than a week) but its awesome. Some great questions being asked, some even better answers being given. Awesome friendly people but NO ONE UPDATES.
I love to help and of course get helped once-in-a-while but I can't do that if everyone continuesly forgets about the community. We need to loosen things up, and get people more active.
-update with progress. its not hard, takes no time.
-heard of a new food/product? tell us
-find a diet that doesnt work? or does? we want to know
-any tips? we are all interested
-got a question? we have answers
Sorry this is a weird post, especially since I am not a mod or anything. But I just hate seeing good communities go down the drain. so help me get this community ACTIVE (in one way or another)   !

Use this entry to leave a link if you promoted.

What food is hardest to give up?

As I was making a sandwich tonight, I realized how my eating habits have changed over the last few months. So I was wondering what food or foods have others found difficulty in giving up since starting on a weight loss or healthier eating journey?
During the sandwich making it occurred to me that I used to need cheese on just about everything. I would even eat slices of cheese as a snack. However, now I don't miss the cheese and a spluge of it means grating a little bit of low-fat cheddar onto an occassional egg white omelet or fat free bean tacos.

Caloric intake for Sept 4

I'm going to keep track of what I've eaten.  If you see something that could easily be replaced, please, please do tell me!  Healthy options are nice... but sometimes I don't know how to make them on my own!

Sunday
I know I should be drinking mostly water, or at least Diet Pepsi, but it wasn't readily available over the weekend.  I don't think I'm brave enough to drink Washington DC tap water, either.  So, that's my excuse ^_^

Breakfast:
1 Large Fried Egg - 92 calories
2 Slices Whole Wheat Toast - 256 calories
12oz Pepsi (GROSS, I KNOW) - 150 calories

Lunch:
12oz Pepsi (GROSS AGAIN) - 150 calories

Dinner:
12oz Pepsi - 150 calories
Shake & Bake coating - 106 calories
1 1/2 lean pork chops (boneless/skinless) - 690 calories
1 cup mashed potatoes - 162 calories
1 cup frozen yellow corn - 161 calories
2 pat of salted butter - 36 calories

Total calories for the day: 1,952
Goal calorie for the day: 1,200 - 1,550

When I first started my "diet," I was eating over 2500 calories a day.  I'm slowly watching what I eat, but it's SO hard when you have a non-dieter boyfriend whom you live with. 
1. Name:Ana
2. Age:18
3. Current Weight: 116  
4. Current Height: 5'8"
5. BMI: 17.4-17.6
6. Ideal/Goal Weight: 105
7. Are you apart of Weight Watchers/Jenny Craig/Etc.?: Nope. Independent; vegetarian, health nut and excessive exercise-r
8. Do you track your diet online using a tool-site such as Sparkpeople.com?: Used to, I tend to update more often in a handwritten journal though.
9. What you hope to gain by joining FoodTrackers: Friends. Support. Any and all useful tips are a bonus.
10. Any further comments: If anyone needs any support, a friend, motivation I'm here. Easy to reach by email or comments on LJ. No chats though. Just make sure you put 'LJ foodtrackers' or something in the subject so I don't delete. caffeine_fiend[at]hotmail.com

Introduction

1. Name: Jen
2. Age: 27
3. Current Weight: 203
4. Current Height: 5"3'
5. Starting weight: 250
6. Ideal/Goal Weight: 150
7. Are you apart of Weight Watchers/Jenny Craig/Etc.?: Weight Watchers online
8. Do you track your diet online using a tool-site such as Sparkpeople.com?: WW online tools
9. What you hope to gain by joining FoodTrackers: Food ideas and motivation
10. Any further comments:

New person

1. Name: _____playgirl (From Ladytron song, not the magazine :p)
2. Age: 17
3. Current Weight: 123 lbs
4. Current Height: 5"3
5. BMI: 21
6. Ideal/Goal Weight: 98lbs eventually
7. Are you apart of Weight Watchers/Jenny Craig/Etc.?: No
8. Do you track your diet online using a tool-site such as Sparkpeople.com?: No
9. What you hope to gain by joining FoodTrackers: Motivation to eat the right foods and the right amount of foods!
10. Any further comments: Nope :)

I'm slipping!

Well ladies, I've seemed to be slipping on the weekends. While at work during the week, I seem to log all of my meals and track my calories, but on the weekends I just... slip.

It's not that I just slip, I kind of go for the bad foods. And with my boyfriend eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in front of me, I turn into a ravenous choco-holic.

What's a good way for me to keep my diet in check? Should I set aside one "reward" day a week for sticking to my daily goals? I don't want to screw it all up by eating like a pig 1 day a week, but I know that I'm basically doing it anyway.

Frustration!