Negative Calories in a Cheeseburger?

A cheeseburger does not lose calories because you add lettuce - or even ketchup

Apparently we still have a way to go on nutrition information with the public at large.  In a recent survey, AARP asked which contained more calories, a plain cheeseburger or the same cheeseburger with onion, lettuce and tomato.

The survey participants guessed incorrectly that the cheeseburger loaded with vegetables contained fewer calories.  Interesting.  That would imply that the vegetables had negative calories.  Not.  As in, not in this universe.

A little research shows that tomatoes would add approximately 5 calories, lettuce 4, onions 8 and pickles 2.  Now in the scheme of all things cheeseburger, I will grant that is virtually 0 calories added to the total.

For example, a Burger King Whopper Jr. with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles is 390 calories.  So the vegetables are a negligible part of the total.  But the vegetables don’t subtract from the total, they add to it.

Of course the calorie big hitters in the Whopper Jr. were the bun (130), beef patty (100), Mayo (80) and cheese (50).  I arrived at these by using Burger King’s cheeseburger builder / calculator.  It’s a clever little application on their site that lets you add and subtract ingredients and recalculate the calories in your burger – including a graphic that shows how your customized burger will look.  Also, they give additional nutrition information like carbohydrates, grams of fat, etc.

I give Burger King credit for putting up this site as a public information service and convenience.  You can visit their site at Burger King Burger Builder.

Anyhow, back to the survey respondents, to give them some credit, it seems they intuitively knew where the major calories were coming from.  And personally, I would order the Whopper with the vegetables because of the added healthy food value.  Also, because of the additional natural fiber, there could be less calorie absorption due to the food passing through the digestive tract more quickly.  So in a sense, this might have the effect of negative calories.

So how would you have answered the survey?  And which cheeseburger would you order?

Have a nice day – John

Note that I used the following portions for my estimates of calorie values on the vegetable: 1/5 of a medium size tomato, half a cup of chopped lettuce, 2 tablespoons of chopped onions and two long dill pickle slices.  These are not necessarily the exact portions of the Whopper since their calculator assigns all of these a value of zero – which is close enough.

Leave a Reply