How Much Exercise Will It Take to Work Off a Burger? Menus May Soon Tell You


by Alexandra Sifferlin

More restaurants display calorie counts on their menus, but what if they also informed you what it would take to burn off those calories?

It’s one thing to know how many calories are packed into a meal you’re about to eat, and quite another to fully appreciate what your body does with them. That’s been clear since cities like New York mandated calorie counts on fast food and restaurant menus so consumers would have a better idea of what they were eating. Despite the added information, studies haven’t shown that the counts led people to eat less. In fact, some surveys found they prompted people to order more food. So caloric information, it seems, doesn’t have much impact on eating behavior.

Better strategies are clearly needed, so researchers Dr. Meena Shah and Ashlei James from Texas Christian University tried another approach — replacing the calorie counts with the number of minutes of brisk walking a person would need to complete to burn off what they just ate.

The researchers chose brisk walking since it’s a physical activity most people can do, and can easily fit into their day, as opposed to running or jogging. “We did the study specifically in younger adults. The reason why we chose young adults is because they exercise more than older adults and we felt that they would relate to it more than older adults,” says Shah.

The scientists recruited 300 men and women ages 18 to 30 and randomly assigned them to order lunch from one of three menus: one that was calorie-free, one that included calorie counts and another labeled with the minutes of walking needed to burn the calories in the food. All the menus had the same food offerings, including burgers, chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, salad, fries, desserts, soda and water.

The participants who were provided the walking information ordered and consumed fewer calories compared to those who ordered off the menu without calorie labels. However, as with some previous studies, there was no difference in the calories consumed between those who ordered off the menu with calorie count labels and those who were not provided with calorie information.

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Alexandra Sifferlin @acsifferlin
Alexandra Sifferlin is a writer and producer for TIME Healthland. She is a graduate from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

Xtreme Restaurant Food


Johnny Rocket’s’ Big Apple Shake, bacon cheddar double burger and sweet potato fries add up to 3,500 calories.

by Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

Published: 01/16/2013 05:00am

Take a milkshake, blend in a piece of apple pie and voila! You have an 1,140-calorie Big Apple Shake from Johnny Rockets restaurants.

Order it with the restaurant chain’s Bacon Cheddar Double burger and Sweet Potato Fries and the meal has 3,500 calories.

These and other gastronomic heavyweights from other restaurants, including a smoothie with 1,460 calories and a piece of cake with 1,820 calories, have won The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s dubious honor: the Xtreme Eating Awards.

Every year nutritionists with the Washington D.C.-based consumer group review the nutritional information on entrees, appetizers and desserts from 225 popular chain restaurants and identify foods that are loaded with calories, artery-clogging saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

“These are huge portions of high-fat, high-calorie foods,” says Jayne Hurley, senior nutritionist for the group. “The calories are in the stratosphere. Restaurants need to slim down their menus. There are pages of foods like these that are bad for you.”

The Xtreme Eating Award entrees have between 1,700 to 3,100 calories in a single meal, as much or more than most people should eat in a day, she says.

The average American should consume about 2,000 calories a day, depending on height, weight and activity level, Hurley says. Some people need fewer calories, and some active people may be able to eat more.

Hurley’s advice for people who are dining out: Skip the appetizer and dessert and split one entree with a friend or take half of it home. “Or if there is a healthy, light or diet section of the menu, order off of that. You’ll get fewer calories, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get less sodium.”

Registered dietitian Joy Dubost, director of nutrition for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement: “Consumers choose to dine out for many occasions — whether it’s a lunch outside the office or a special occasion, such as a birthday dinner. With this in mind, restaurants provide an array of menu options including a growing selection of healthful menu options. In fact, the National Restaurant Association’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast shows that over 85 % of adults say there are more healthy options at restaurants than there were two years ago.”

Here’s some of the nutrient information on the foods receiving the Xtreme Eating Awards, plus comments about them from CSPI nutritionists in the January/February Nutrition Action Healthletter:

– The Cheesecake Factory’s Bistro Shrimp Pasta: 3,120 calories. “This dish has the dubious distinction of delivering more calories than any other entree on the menu.”

– The Cheesecake Factory’s Crispy Chicken Costoletta (lightly breaded chicken breasts) with mashed potatoes and asparagus: 2,610 calories. “It’s like eating an entire KFC 12-piece Original Recipe bucket, except the KFC chicken has less saturated fat.”

– Chili’s Full Rack of Baby Back Ribs with Shiner Bock BBQ Sauce with fries and cinnamon apples: 2,330 calories. This has a “stunning four-day supply” of sodium (6,490 milligrams).

– Uno Chicago Grill’s Deep Dish Macaroni and 3-Cheese: 1,980 calories. “It’s not just the three cheeses (cheddar, Parmesan, and Romano). There’s Alfredo sauce which is made from heavy cream, cheese, rendered chicken fat and butter. And four cups of pasta plus the crushed Ritz Cracker crumbs also do their share to boost the calorie load.”

– IHOP’s Country Fried Steak and Eggs combo which includes deep-fried steak (8 oz.) with gravy, two fried eggs, deep-fried potatoes, and two buttermilk pancakes: 1,760 calories. “Think of it as five McDonald’s Egg McMuffins sprinkled with 10 packets of sugar.”

– Maggiano’s Little Italy’s Veal Porterhouse (18. oz.) with crispy red potatoes: 2,710 calories. “You’d be better off eating four Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizzas.”

– Smoothie King’s Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie (40-oz. size): 1,460 calories. “Somehow, people believe that smoothies are healthy no matter what.”

– Maggiano’s Little Italy’s Chocolate Zuccotto Cake: 1,820 calories. “Each slice is five inches tall and four inches wide and weighs just short of a pound.”