Office workers beware! Your lunch could take four hours of exercise to burn off

Some of Australia’s most popular lunches have been investigated by The George Institute for Global Health to discover how long it would take to run, cycle or walk them off.

Twenty five fast food chains including Oporto, Guzman y Gomez, Grill’d, Crust, Coffee Club and Sumo Salad were surveyed as part of Healthy Weight Week.

The kilojoule (kJ) content of 229 small meals and snacks – including burgers, salads, sandwiches/wraps, burritos and pizzas – were examined by The George Institute’s Food Policy Division.  

Dr Kristina Petersen, of The George Institute’s Food Policy Division, said: “Close to a quarter of the lunches in our survey exceeded 3000kJ. For the average Australian adult this would be over one third of their daily kilojoule requirement. On average Australian’s spend just over 30 minutes per day doing physical activity which is not enough to burn off the kilojoules in many of these meals. 

“Making small changes such as choosing menu items lower in kilojoules may help to prevent weight gain or achieve weight loss.”

Key findings

  • A run of 1hr 43, walk of 3hrs 56 mins or cycle of 2hrs 18 mins would be needed to burn off just one Guzman y Gomez Enchilada Burritos Spicy Chicken Guerrero (4760kJ per serve).
  • Cyclists would have to pedal for 1hr 43 mins to work off Red Rooster’s Bacon and Cheese Rippa, or walk for 2hrs 57 mins.
  • Coffee Club’s Steak Sandwich would require a walk of 3hrs 9 mins or a run of 1hr 23 mins.
  • The Mighty Melbourne Beef Burger from Grill’d would take 2hrs and 41 min to walk off, whilst the Coffee Club’s BBQ Pulled Burger required 3hrs 8 mins of walking. Topping the burger list of the chains surveyed was Hungry Jack’s Ultimate Double whopper with the most kilojoules – close to four hours of walking was needed to burn it off.
  • The “healthy salad” option may not be quite so healthy after all. A run of almost an hour is required for Sumo Salad’s Ancient Grain Peanut Orange Small, while the Jamaica Blue Coconut Mango Salad would take a 2hr 59 min walk, or a run of 1hr 18 mins.
  • Topping the overall list for the most energy heavy lunch was Zambrero’s Nachos Pork and Garlic Sauce with 5005kJ per bowl. Four hours and 8 mins of walking, 1hr and 48 mins of running or 2hr 25 mins of cycling would be needed to burn this off.
  • Pizzas from Crust, Dominos, Pizza Hut and Pizza Capers all came under the 1300kJ mark requiring a maximum of an hour’s walk.  But with a serving measured at just 100 grams (equivalent to one slice) workers need to keep a close eye on how many pieces they eat.
  • Download the full report 'What's your lunch worth?' (PDF 583KB)

Dr Petersen said Australians should try to avoid eating out daily adding: “Where possible bring food from home as you have more control of what and how much you are eating. If you buy food out, be aware of what you are eating.”

Healthy eating tips

  • There is no standard, regulated portion size for food so keep an eye out for super-size portions and choose the smallest option available. 
  • Most fast food outlets and chains are legally required to display kJ content. Aim for 1500-2000kJ per meal and 600kJ for snacks or discretionary foods (based on 8700 adult daily total, taking into consideration snacks & beverages).
  • Note a 1500kJ meal still requires a 75 min walk, 33 min run or 45 min cycle to burn off all that energy. 
  • Watch for additions – sauces and dressings, cheeses, high-fat or fried meats.
  • Look for meals with lots of vegetables and choose water over soft drinks.
  • Cooking at home is best – you know what you have put in your food and can control portion size, so consider bringing in a home cooked lunch.


The George Institute and Cancer Council of New South Wales's Fast Food Database was used for the analyses. This data is collected twice per year from fast food chain websites, and when not available online the information is collected from in-store menu boards. The fast food chains selected are those required to provide kilojoule menu board labelling for the NSW government menu board labelling initiative. For each food category we select the three smallest sized menu items with the lowest kilojoule content per serve and the corresponding three items with the highest kilojoule content per serve. The amount of walking, running and cycling required to use up the kilojoules in each of the menu items was calculated based on the New South Wales Health 8700 Campaign. All values are approximations based on the amount of exercise a 40 year male with a healthy body weight is required to perform. Download the complete data spreadsheet (XLSX 30KB)

Australia Healthy Weight Week (15 to 21 February 2016)

AHWW is an initiative of the Dietitians Association of Australia. The aim for the 2016 campaign is straight-forward: to encourage more Australians to cook at home as a way to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight. AHWW also encourages Australians to seek expert and individual nutrition advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD). More information on the Healthy Weight Week website.