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The New Restaurant Menu Sticker Shock: Calories!

Posted Jan 01 2011 12:00am

Although shocking at times, I am in full support of seeing those calorie numbers on the restaurant menus.  I write this from Panera Foods at White City Plaza, and many kudos to you, Panera for posting calories on your menu boards.  A little birdie told me that Wah Bo Grill (also in White City Plaza) will also soon have nutrition information available to the public. I will be keeping a close watch on them. I consume their “air fries” with reckless abandon because I know they are not deep fat fried, but I’m dying to know the calorie count.  I will be soon issuing a call to all Worcester restaurants to post calories on menus.  However, an important note of caution about all this restaurant calorie stuff:  calorie information for one single meal is completely useless if you do not know how many calories you should be consuming in total for the day.  A fairly straightforward equation, called the Harris Benedict Equation can be used to help you determine how much you should be consuming each day.  Once you know how much you should be consuming each day you will have a better sense of how much you should be consuming at each meal.  Follow these easy steps:

The first step is to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is how many calories your body is burning each day doing regular functions.  It is based on your height, weight, sex, and age.  See this link for a free online BMR calculator.

Crap. I just checked mine, only 1320 calories per day!  Apparently I’m in a coma.  That doesn’t seem like much, especially as I gaze at the Panera menu, I could knock the whole day out with an Italian Combo Sandwich and a cup of soup.  Let’s hold off on the sandwich and not panic just yet, we still haven’t gotten to the Harris Benedict Equation.  Once you have your BMR, the next step is to multiple it by a magic number that depends on how active you are (see below for your magic number).  Moderate activity gets me up to 2046 calories per day to remain weight stable. Ahh… now that’s a number I can work with.  Now you know why I talk about exercise so much!  I will still be holding off on the Italian Combo Sandwich, but there are plenty of other healthy, reasonably calorie options at Panera that can keep me to my daily allowance.

Keep in mind, your daily allowance is to keep you weight stable.  If you are interested in weight, you will need to adjust your equation even further.  To lose 1 pound, you need to eliminate 3,500 calories. To eliminate 1 pound in a week’s time, you need to eliminate 500 per day.  I would need to bring my 2,046 down to 1,546 to lose 1 pound per week. Two pounds per week would bring me to 1,046 calories.  Whoa, that’s getting low!  Keep in mind though, the more you exercise, the more you bump that calorie total back up.  If you want to lose weight, shoot for no more than 1-2 pounds per week, because as you can see, your total calorie allowance gets really low the more weight you want to lose per week. Extremely low calorie diets are rarely effective at generating long-term weight loss, so be sure to strike a nice balance between exercise and proper nutrition to generate a gradual yet healthy weight loss plan.

The more that restaurants come clean about how many calories are in their dishes, the easier it is to track your calories and make dining out a healthy part of your diet.  I would love to hear more reports of restaurants posting calories locally, please comment!


If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2

If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375

If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55

If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725

If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9

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