A 'calorie detective' found something shocking about the calorie listings on food labels

Kathleen Elkins



Screen Shot 2016 01 02 at 2.51.37 PM
Screen Shot 2016 01 02 at 2.51.37 PM

Casey Neistat/YouTube

Walk into any grocery store or bodega for a packaged snack and you'll probably be able to find the nutritional information. Or if you're stopping by a fast-food spot or chain restaurant, chances are you'll be reminded of just how many calories you're about to consume, thanks to the listings on the menu.

How spot-on are these listings?

Filmmaker Casey Neistat decided to test the accuracy for himself on five different food items, with the help of two food scientists and their bomb calorimeter at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center.

"By testing only five items, my little study is hardly conclusive," he writes on The New York Times.

But his findings certainly raise a few red flags. Here's what he found and documented in his 2013 short film "The Truth Behind Calorie Labels":

He picked the foods he would typically eat in a single day, starting with a packaged "yogurt muffin." The muffin supposedly had a whopping 640 calories — according to the food scientists' bomb calorimeter, it has an incredible 734.7 calories packed into it.

Casey Neistat/YouTube

Next up was a grande Starbucks Frappuccino with whipped cream. Starbucks claimed it contained 370 calories, and they weren't far off — Neistat found a discrepancy of just 22.9 calories. "The girls at Starbucks liked me. They probably just gave me an extra squirt."

Casey Neistat/YouTube

There was a bit more of a discrepancy with the Chipotle barbacoa burrito. The actual count was about 10% more than what Chipotle claimed, a fairly significant amount of unaccounted-for calories.

Casey Neistat/YouTube

The biggest shocker was the vegan, kosher, and self-proclaimed "healthy" tofu sandwich. The actual calorie content was almost double what the label claimed: a shocking 548.4 calories. That about equates it to a McDonald's Big Mac.

Casey Neistat/YouTube

And finally, he put Subway to the test. The 6-inch sub was the only item that came in under the declared amount, by about 10 calories.

Casey Neistat/Business Insider

All in all, Neistat calculated that if he based his diet on the calorie counts provided to him, he would have consumed about 550 extra calories. "Today's 548 calorie discrepancy means I unknowingly ate a McDonald's quarter-pounder with cheese, or two hamburgers worth of calories, or two Snickers, or a couple of donuts."

Casey Neistat/YouTube

Watch the full video "The Truth Behind Calorie Labels."

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