Film: Posted Calorie Counts Understate Truth

This article is more than 8 years old.
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

"Aha! I suspected as much!"

That was my reaction upon viewing this charming and eye-opening new short film about testing the posted calories counts in New York City.

More and more chain restaurants are posting the calorie counts of the foods they serve, whether because of local rules, as in New York or, soon, nationwide under Obamacare. But, film-maker Casey Neistat points out in "Calorie Detective," no one actually checks the accuracy of the posted calories, at least in New York. And, I would add, those of us with suspicious minds often find the purported calorie counts to be oddly.....low.

Casey decides to seek the help of some obesity researchers with a "calorimeter" among other impressive equipment, and do some checking himself. Watch the film for the full effect, but suffice it to say that he calculated that in a typical day, he's getting more than 500 extra calories beyond the posted counts — about as many as inadvertently eating a quarter-pounder with cheese or two Snickers bars. (And what fun is accidental eating?)

The worst offender — wouldn't you know it? — is the super-healthy-looking spicy tofu sandwich, which claimed to be 228 calories and actually measured out to 548. And the most virtuous food-maker: Subway, whose 6-inch turkey sub was actually a few calories less than the advertised 360. (So does this make up for that recent 11-inch foot-long scandal?)

Readers, do you have any particular suspicions about any Boston-based calorie counts? If we have some likely culprits, perhaps we could enlist some public-minded scientists here to do the lab work...

This program aired on February 13, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.