Fast Food Facts: How Long Does It Take to Burn Off Your Meal?

Research shows we don't have a sense of how many calories are in our fast-food meals, and that the more caloric the item, the more likely we'll underestimate the amount. So how do we get better at knowing how much we're putting in to our bodies--and how much we'll need to move to work it off?

By Perri O. Blumberg
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New Harvard research: 25 percent of people surveyed underestimated their fast-food intake by at least 500 calories.

On average, adults and kids thought they ate 175 calories fewer than they actually did, and teens were off by 259 calories. (When the survey was conducted, none of the chains were posting calorie counts on their menus, which included McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, KFC, and Subway.) However, in another study from Texas Christian University, researchers used food menus listing the number of minutes it would take to walk off the items and found those may help people make healthier choices. So: Can you guess how much exercise you'd need to work off the following?

Courtesy of Subway

Subway's 6-inch Double Roast Beef Sub, Veggie Delite Salad with Fat-Free Italian Dressing, and Medium Iced Tea

How long would you have to jog to work off these fast-food calories?

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Subway's 6-inch Double Roast Beef Sub, Veggie Delite Salad with Fat-Free Italian Dressing, and medium Iced Tea

Jog for 57 minutes and you'll burn off this 455-calorie meal.

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Wendy's plain Baked Potato and small Chili

How long would you need to lift weights to work off this meal?

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Wendy's plain Baked Potato and small Chili

It would take two hours of weight lifting to burn off this 460-calorie fast-food meal.

Courtesy of McDonald's

McDonald's Mighty Kids Meal of Double Cheeseburger, French fries, and chocolate milk

How much frisbee would a kid need to play to work off this fast-food meal?

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McDonald's Mighty Kids Meal of Double Cheeseburger, French fries, and chocolate milk

This kids' meal, which is 840 calories of fast food, would take a solid 4 hours and 3 minutes of frisbee-playing to burn it off.

Courtesy of Domino\'s Pizza

Domino's slice of medium cheese pizza

How much bike riding, at 12 to 14 miles per hour, do you think it takes to work off one slice of this pizza?

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Domino's slice of medium cheese pizza

To burn off just one of the 210-calorie slices, it would take 22 minutes of biking at 12 to 14 miles per hour.

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Cosi: Bombay Chicken Salad with a tall cafe blend coffee

How many minutes would you need to do sit-ups (at a moderate intensity) to burn off this fast-food meal?

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Cosi: Bombay Chicken Salad with a tall cafe blend coffee

If you want to work off this 481-calorie meal with moderate intensity sit-ups, you'd need to go non-stop for 93 minutes.

Courtesy of KFC

KFC's 3 Crispy Strips with Green Beans and 3-inch Corn on the Cob, and a medium Diet Pepsi

How long do you think you'd have to spend washing dishes to work off this fast-food meal?

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KFC's 3 Crispy Strips with Green Beans and 3-inch Corn on the Cob, and a medium Diet Pepsi

This 475-calorie meal can be worked off with 3 hours and 5 minutes of washing dishes.

(Note: All calculations are based on a 150-pound person. Exercise equivalents are rough estimates; actual results may vary based on weight and intensity.)

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