Consumers Underestimate the Calorie Content of Fast Food Meals

July 17, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. miscalculate [mis-KAL-kyuh-leyt] (v.) – to calculate or estimate incorrectly
Example: The food attendant had to redo our check because he miscalculated our bill.

2. ingest [in-JEST] (v.)  – to swallow or take into the body
 Example: The kid’s stomach ached because he ingested too much food for dinner.

3. calorie content [KAL-uh-ree KON-tent] (n.) – the amount of energy, which is measured in calories, contained in food
Example: His brother is avoiding foods with high calorie content to prevent gaining weight.

4. lobby [LOB-ee] (v.) – to try to influence government officials to take a specific action
Example: The consumer activists went to the president’s office to lobby for better labeling of genetically modified foods and products in the market.

5. intake [IN-teyk] (n.) – the amount of substances (e.g. food, drinks, etc.) that the body takes in
Example:  People with flu should increase their water intake.


Read the text below.

A new study says that many Americans are greatly miscalculating how much calories they are getting from fast food meals.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School surveyed over 3,000 people in the US who eat at ten popular fast food locations, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Subway. The respondents provided details on how much food they ordered and how many calories they thought they were ingesting from their meals.

At least 66% of the respondents underestimated the calorie content of their food. In fact, 25% underestimated the calorie content by at least 500 calories. Although adult customers ate an average of 836 calories per meal, most of them thought they were getting only about 660 calories.

The customers who underestimated their calorie intake the most were the customers of Subway, a popular sandwich restaurant chain that advertises itself as a healthier alternative to fast food restaurants.

Consumer activists have long been lobbying for better labeling of the calorie content of fast food products. According to the activists, most Americans find difficulties in making healthier food choices because fast food restaurants refuse to list nutritional information on menu boards. Instead, most fast food restaurants put the nutritional information on their websites or behind the counter where they are less handy.

To address this issue, many states and cities are taking action by passing stricter labeling laws. A new health reform law will require major restaurant brands to provide clear calorie labels right across the items on menu boards.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Why do you think it is important to watch calorie intake?
·         Do you agree that fast food restaurants should be required to include nutritional information on their menus? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         How do you think we can convince consumers to lessen their fast food intake?
·         Would you describe your current diet as healthy? Why or why not?


July 17, 2013