In terms of counting calories, Americans are not as knowledgeable as they believe. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research explains a potential cause of this problem to be the order the food is encountered.
Based upon when a food item is considered, a person’s evaluation of the item is altered. When controlling daily caloric intake, most people are estimating calories per meal as well as total daily calories.
In one study, researchers noted the estimation of calories in food by people was based upon when they saw the food. When asking people how many calories a certain cheeseburger had, those seeing the cheeseburger before a salad estimated it to have 570 calories. The same cheeseburger, when presented after a salad, was estimated at 787 calories by other individuals. The difference — 38 percent.
Further analysis allowed researchers to determine switching the order of food encounters increases the estimation by nearly 350 calories.
Another interesting discovery showed individuals believing a cheesecake and cheeseburger combination to have less calories than a salad and cheeseburger combination.
This study shows how people estimate calories when a meal contains a variety of items.
Researchers explain if people are more likely to exaggerate the calorie count of a healthy-then-indulgent food sequence, it is also likely they will show more self-control when eating.