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|
|Taco salad with beef|
|Daiquiri, 12 oz.|
|Pina Colada, 12 oz.|
|Cheese quesadilla, 10″|
|Chicken parmesan without pasta|
|Spaghetti with meat sauce|
|Club sandwich with grilled chicken, bacon, cheese and mayonnaise|
|Large onion rings|
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|
|Double decker cheeseburger|
|Breakfast burrito with egg, cheese and sausage|
|Soft shell beef taco with cheese|
|Chocolate milkshake, 10.6 oz|
|Chicken tenders, four strips|
|Fried mozzarella sticks, three pieces|
|Coffee, 8 oz.|
|Vanilla soft-serve with cone|
|Fried chicken drumstic|
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.