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GUESS AGAIN

Americans have no idea how many calories are in a taco salad

The sign on a Taco Bell franchise.
Reuters/Fred Prouser
Not a salad shop.
By Dan Kopf
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Americans are actually pretty good at counting calories. According to a new survey from Morning Consult, people tend to be, on average, just 110 calories off when estimating calories for items at popular restaurants.

But for certain dishes, Americans have serious blind spots. People are way off when it comes to predicting the calories in Chinese egg rolls, for example, or taco salad. In both cases, survey respondents guessed there were half as many calories in those dishes as there actually are. Blended alcoholic drinks were also problematic: Pina coladas and daiquiris have more than twice as many calories as the typical American thinks. (I believe this is willful ignorance.)

The estimates are based on surveys of about 2,200 adults. The calories data is from the US Department of Agriculture, and based on the number of calories in that dish at the typical restaurant.

Americans underestimate the number of calories in these dishes

Chinese egg rolls, 4 pieces
888
426
462
Taco salad with beef
906
446
460
Daiquiri, 12 oz.
674
284
390
Pina Colada, 12 oz.
656
297
359
Cheese quesadilla, 10″
714
436
278
Chicken parmesan without pasta
614
426
188
Spaghetti with meat sauce
670
487
183
Three pancakes
525
373
152
Club sandwich with grilled chicken, bacon, cheese and mayonnaise
590
487
103
Large onion rings
481
427
54

On the flip side, Americans typically overestimate the number of calories in ice cream sundaes and double-decker cheeseburgers, perhaps because they’ve been taught to think of these as indulgences.

Americans overestimate the number of calories in these dishes

Sundae with hot fudge
284
532
-248
Double decker cheeseburger
572
755
-183
Breakfast burrito with egg, cheese and sausage
302
423
-121
Soft shell beef taco with cheese
210
312
-102
Chocolate milkshake, 10.6 oz
357
449
-92
Chicken tenders, four strips
324
406
-82
Fried mozzarella sticks, three pieces
303
378
-75
Coffee, 8 oz.
2
70
-68
Vanilla soft-serve with cone
196
257
-61
Fried chicken drumstic
200
259
-59

A rule recently went into effect requiring US chain restaurants to list the number of calories in each of their items. That should help Americans confront the true decadence of egg rolls and taco salad going forward.

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