4 Eye-Opening Reasons to Think Twice About What You Eat

Pizza 2Does 250 calories seem like a big deal? It might if you knew that burning off those calories would mean walking more than three miles.

In fact, new research shows that seeing calories in context could help people make healthier choices.

Adolescents who saw printed signs explaining the number of miles they would need to walk to burn off the calories in a sugary drink were more likely to leave the store with a lower calorie beverage, a healthier beverage or a smaller size beverage, according to new Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health research.

“People don’t really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories,” says study leader Sara N. Bleich, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School.

“If you’re going to give people calorie information, there’s probably a better way to do it. What our research found is that when you explain calories in an easily understandable way such as how many miles of walking needed to burn them off, you can encourage behavior change.”

The research showed that even after the signs came down, teens still tended to make better choices about their drink purchases.

So what does this mean for you? If you’re trying to lose weight, putting the calories of your favorite treats into action equivalents might make it easier for you to resist them. We did the math on some of our favorite indulgences and here’s what we found. (All activity counts are calculated based on a 150-pound person.)

  • To burn off one slice of 280-calorie pepperoni pizza, you’d have to run at a 10-minute mile pace for about 15 minutes.
  • You would have to walk four miles at a moderate pace to burn off a 300-calorie glazed doughnut.
  • You can negate a 20-ounce soda by doing vigorous jumping jacks – about 25 minutes worth!
  • One 200-calorie chocolate bar means committing to a moderate pace on a stationary bike for 25 minutes.

Thinking about the effort you’d need to expend to justify some less-than-healthy eating options could help you reach for something less calorie-dense and more nutritious. Plus, you’ll be giving your body better fuel to work with when you do work out.

Want to try this at home? Download a calorie-counting app like My Fitness Pal to start crunching the numbers on your favorite treats.

Photo credit: Ina Todoran





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