This is 200 calories of celery. You can bet 200 calories of chocolate takes up less room on a plate.

These photos, which come from Wisegeek, are a quick reminder of exactly what 200 calories looks like.

After looking at these pictures, numbers that might have seemed meaningless on a nutritional label suddenly have context.

Why did the site choose 200 calories? “We could have chosen any amount of calories for this project, but we wanted something that gave tangible volumes for the entire range of items,” writes author L.S. Wynn.

“We felt that 100 calories of butter or oil would have yielded diminutive portion sizes; on the other hand 500 calories of celery would have been virtually incomprehensible.”

It’s the sort of visualization that might be a useful addition to calorie-counting apps.

Many of these tools just focus on numbers, and miss the visceral impact of images.

Numbers alone, some studies say, aren’t necessarily likely to change what you eat.

When fast food restaurants post calories, people tend to keep eating the same thing.

That might be because they’re just not reading the menu, or possibly because they don't care. But it also may be because they don't have a good sense of what a particular number means, or how much is too much.

In other words, a lack of knowledge about the calorie count of a specific food probably isn’t why you’re fat.

In other words, a lack of knowledge about the calorie count of a specific food probably isn’t why you’re fat.

Keep scrolling for more 200 calorie dishes.

Keep scrolling for more 200 calorie dishes.

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2014-01-24

Co.Exist

This Is What 200 Calories Looks Like

Guess what: 200 calories of carrots is a whole lot different than 200 calories of a candy bar.

Unless you’re a serious athlete or on a serious diet, you probably have no idea how many calories you ate yesterday at lunch. That’s true even at fast food restaurants that post calorie counts on menus; one study last year found that most of us underestimate the calorie content of a fast food meal by nearly 200 calories.

These photos, which come from Wisegeek, are a quick reminder of exactly what 200 calories looks like.

It’s one thing to know that celery has fewer calories than cheese, and another to actually see it on a plate: The pile of celery, weighing in at 1425 grams, barely fits, while the cheese is 96% lighter and the size of a couple of tiny cubes. After looking at these pictures, numbers that might have seemed meaningless on a nutritional label suddenly have context.

Why did the site choose 200 calories? “We could have chosen any amount of calories for this project, but we wanted something that gave tangible volumes for the entire range of items,” writes author L.S. Wynn. “We felt that 100 calories of butter or oil would have yielded diminutive portion sizes; on the other hand 500 calories of celery would have been virtually incomprehensible.”

It’s the sort of visualization that might be a useful addition to calorie-counting apps or upcoming gadgets like the TellSpec, which shoots lasers at food to calculate what ingredients are inside. Many of these tools just focus on numbers, and miss the visceral impact of images.

Numbers alone, some studies say, aren’t necessarily likely to change what you eat. When fast food restaurants post calories, people tend keep eating the same thing. That might be because they’re just not reading the menu, or possibly because they don't care. But it also may be because they don't have a good sense of what a particular number means, or how much is too much.

In other words, a lack of knowledge about the calorie count of a specific food probably isn’t why you’re fat. While that might not bode well for the roll-out of the federal law requiring all large fast-food chains to post nutritional info, maybe it also just means we need to think of better ways to make sense of the data.

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12 Comments

  • Tatiana Lemos

    I think that a good way to strike a chord in people's minds is to show how much exercise they would have to do to "offset" those calories. Ex: "run 3km for a piece of this pie" or "climb 150 steps / equivalent to 5 floors for this special burger". People can relate to physical effort and how active they are in a normal day. The shocking truth is that a great deal of the food and dishes available today are simply NOT VIABLE / should not exist, if we take into account our daily average calorie consumption. Scary.

  • Elayne Burt

    Interesting article and good photos. Photos should be labelled. I will vote for the potato chips every time. I'll have to do some extra snow shovelling to burn them off, but that's definitely not a prob here in Toronto. Think we've had over 3 feet of snow here so far. Because no one eats just 10 potato chips. I certainly don't. Keep up the good work.

  • Brad Zavakos

    Calories aren't the only things you need to remember! You have to know WHAT you're eating. While something like this is appreciated, 200 calories of veggies isn't the same as 200 calories from candy.

  • Rhonda Johnson

    This is really cool except that I cant tell by the photos what many of the items are.... bowl of red stuff?

  • uh. where are the rest of the pics? I can only see avocados and tootsiepops. Isn't there a slideshow in here somewhere? The layout of this article looks nice at first blush but the UX is the pits.

  • Michelle Morgan

    These sliders consistently have problems. After going through about three slides the next arrow button will disappear forcing you to use the thumbnails but then the sometimes thumbnail images wont actually take you to the right image. These are a mess!

    Also - it would've been nice for the captions on this to have told me what food I am looking at. Some of these things are not discernible with out an explanation. I have no idea what slides 13 and 15 may be.

  • Just a head's up that the behavior your talking about with the sliders only happens when you're using an AdBlocker. At least in my experience, disabling an AdBlocker fixes that problem.