Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Health Sciences


Leah Whigham

Second Advisor

Maria Duarte-Gardea


Currently, dietary weight-loss interventions focus on recommended caloric intake aimed at creating an energy deficit through the use of calorie-based education. This approach assumes individuals can accurately estimate caloric content of foods and beverages, yet little is known about the validity of such assumptions. This study assessed the accuracy of perceptions of calorie content for individual food items and mixed meals and determined its association with education level, nutrition background, body composition, fruit and vegetable intake, and the domains of eating (emotional eating, uncontrolled eating, and cognitive restraint). A cross-sectional survey assessed calorie perceptions using both visual food displays and written descriptions for 36 items including foods, beverages, and mixed meals. Demographic information was collected from each participant as well as body composition using bioelectrical impedance. Fruit and vegetable intake was assessed by measuring skin carotenoid levels using reflectance spectroscopy. Domains of eating were evaluated using the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire. Overall calorie perception accuracy ranged from 0-4,287,757% and 0-300,143 Calories off the actual amount. Compared to all other individuals and others with a similar level of education, dietetic professionals had higher accuracy on most survey items, but were not more accurate at estimating calories in most mixed meals. Individuals with higher levels of percent body fat were less accurate at assessing calories. Fruit and vegetable intake was not correlated with calorie perception accuracy in the majority of survey items. Regardless of current weight loss efforts, individuals with overweight or obesity were not more or less accurate at assessing calories. The three domains of eating only influenced accuracy for a few survey items with the exception of cognitive restraint which was positively associated with accuracy in slightly less than half of the items. Dietary weight-loss interventions could focus on acquiring accurate baseline knowledge of caloric content of foods, beverages and mixed meals prior to engaging in weight-loss management programs where calorie content is central to the intervention. The findings of this study suggest the need to develop interventions aimed at improving calorie estimations.




Received from ProQuest

File Size

129 p.

File Format


Rights Holder

Sarah Leticia Ruiz