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Burn It Off: How Much Cycling to Undo a Soft Pretzel?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I'm happy to announce that the Burn It Off series is back by popular demand!

Have you been to your county or state fair this summer? How about a baseball game or even the movie theater? These spots are notorious for their oversized (and overpriced) food, and when you're trying to eat healthy or watch your calories, it's hard to know what to pick without totally blowing your diet. After all, there are no nutrition labelsólet alone healthy food choicesóin sight! Your willpower is strong and you bypass the sweet smelling cotton candy, deep-fried Twinkies, hot dogs and nachos and decide on a soft pretzel to hold you over until you can get home. It has to be one of the better choices, right?

How much damage could one soft pretzel really do? Find out how many minutes of biking it takes to undo that oversized pretzel.

According to SparkPeople's Nutrition Tracker one large soft pretzel, like you'd get at the fair or the movies, contains 483 calories (who knew?) and 4.4 grams of fat (not bad compared to a lot of the fried fair foods). And that's the plain one without any toppings, dipping sauces or cheese! It also boasts nearly a day's worth of sodium at 2,008 grams of sodium. Surprisingly, a soft pretzel is not among the lowest-calorie options at the fair (click here to see a calorie breakdown of common fair foods, courtesy of, ballpark or theater.

According to's Fitness Tracker, a 150-pound woman bikes at a 10 mph pace will burn 6 calories per minute. To burn off the pretzel, you'd have to bike at this moderate pace for 81 minutes, which is just over 13 miles!

When you think of food "extras" in this light, it can make it easier to stick with your healthy eating plan. Maybe next time, you'll pack your own healthy snack or eat before your event of choice so that these foods won't tempt you.

Personally, I have to admit that when I'm in these sorts of places, I usually choose a soft pretzel, thinking it's a lesser evil compared to the other options, but now I'll think twice!

How about you?

Are there any ballpark, theater or carnival treats that are worth the calories to you?

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The real issue here is moderation... is not the same if you eat one occasionally than eat one of those every day of the week... If you have self control and do not binge eat, I think that you can indulge in your favorites once in a while. NOT everyday and by the pounds!!!! Report
My husband loves these things...He got a CASE from Costco! Luckily, they're not my fav but he seems to be interested in how many calories he eats nowadays...I will DEFINITELY pass on the word! SP ROX!!! Report
my soft frozen prezetl has 160 cal but if there is one with 16, let me know brand and where to buy. Report
Super Pretzels Frozen Pretzels have 16 cals per serving and the salt on top is optional.
I love them and I'll gladly substitute that for a slice of bread with a meal. :) They are great with Peanut Butter for a sandwich substitute,too. Just dip the pretzel for a different sort of meal. :) Report
If I know I'm going to a Fair, or any other event like that, that is my planned "splurge" day, and I enjoy what I want. There is a difference if you have made the lifestyle change of eating, not just a quickie diet to lose a certain number of pounds. Those who say they won't ever eat anything like that again, are kidding themselves..............yes you are!!! Report
Philly soft pretzels are slightly less bad for you than the misshapen type the rest of the country gets. LOL. They ARE filling. I will on occasion eat a pretzel and maybe snack on some fruit or veggies as a meal. Report
These had been my go to snack at the movies, but after seeing how many calories they have, it just got easier to pass. Report
wow! 13? :(

they are so good! good thing i rarely eat them Report
I love pretzels. I would definitely pedal it off for an hour and twenty minutes. Even better, I'd split my burn-off between the walking, the cycling, and some Pilates.

Mmm. Pretzel. Report
I love soft pretzels! On occasion. Report
Hey, I used to be a Pretzel Girl at Bronco's games - what fun back in the 70s. But I wouldn't personally ever have to burn off a pretzel as one would not cross my lips - lol.

SUZYQS1 - I believe I read something about mercury and HFCS at

I saw Andrew Zimern's (Bizarre Foods) MN show at the State Fair, and I know he shows only the bizarre, but it was gross! EVERYTHING was fried and/or on a stick?! lol

link> http://bizarre-blog.t
-in-minnesota /link
> Report
We were lucky enough to have organic cherry tomatoes, organic basil, and organic mozzarella cheese on a stick at the MN Fair-you can't beat that (maybe some people would think the cheese is not a good choice). What do you think? (MN people, they are located in front of the Education building) I would like to know how bad high fructose corn syrup is for you and corn syrup. How long does it take to work those off? I just read the blog about high fructose having mercury in it (what source was that?) anyway don't touch high fructose corn syrup unless you are starving to death! Report
I also think movie theaters need to start offering healthier fare. Although, they would probably just offer 100-calorie packs of candy and say "see, healthy!" Yes, I wouldn't mind 100 calories of candy, (just one bag, thank you) as long as I can also eat an apple or some berries with it. I like bringing dried apple chips with me. Now that's 100 calories for a huge bag of apples. yum! Report
Fortunately I LOVE this doesn't sound bad at all! (The sodium, on the other hand...) Report
NOPE use to LOVE them years ago.. NOW I will never have anything made with white four or let alone fried foods. NOPE nothing but healthy goes in MY body!! Report
that makes me so sad, i love soft pretzels and actually thought they were one of the smarter choices! Report
The only thing worth it to me at the fair (or anywhere else) is soft serve ice cream. YUM!
I don't like most sweets, or most fried foods. (Yeah...go figure. I should be skinny.)

Someone brought up movie food. I always pack my own snack for a movie. I'm a real sneak. I'll pack a whole meal if I think I can get away with it. I'll take a 1/2 of a veggie sub from Subway, some nuts, and a Metromint water. I have a handy-dandy freezer bag that looks like a purse.

*sneaky sneaky* Movie theaters need to wise-up and start offering healthy options. Report
That's sure a lot more than the frozen sourdough pretzels I buy and keep in my freezer! Nothing you can't work in as an occasional treat though. Plus most of us ladies are a bit more than 150 pounds on here, and that's a pretty slow biking pace. You could burn that off much easier than a leisurely 13 mile bike ride. Report
Forgot to ask - ditto the person that asked how much sodium if no salt added. Thats the only way we order, we order 2 PLAIN pretzles and split 5 ways.
And every time I come home to plug it in to my nutrition tracker and all the websites out there have such a wide range of "calories" and nutrition values on the large pretzels. I keep checking the Wetzels pretzels website but they still haven't added it (says "coming soon" - but its been a few months now) Report
Every once in a while when I take the children to the mall (the little ones love playing in the play area - which is RIGHT next to the food court go figure) Since we go so very rarely, it IS a huge treat just going to the mall... but I will usually buy 2 of the large pretzels and split it 5 ways - the older kids each get half of one, and then the younger children and I split the other.
This way it 1) saves on money (as a homeschooling mother of 4, we have limited income) and 2) saves on calories 3) gives everyone that taste but they know we'll be home soon to eat a healthy lunch.

I also always pack healthy snacks to eat half way through the playtime - so when we do go get the pretzels, they aren't all starving and they are satisfied with only getting a half of one.

BTW, my children are 1, 4, 11 and my oldest will be 14 in 2 weeks. Report
Wow, I never thought that one soft pretzel would have that many calories!

I'm going to my first ball game next week, and from reading the FitSugar article it looks like I'd better pack my own munchies. Yikes! Report
You sure surprised me. Thanks for the info. Report
Just went to check the fair food site. where are they finding the fiber in some of those items. 42 carbs in a small cone and 32 fiber. get real. Report
wow! I'm usually pretty good at knowing what the Cal counts are in most foods, but, though I knew it was higher than what most people think, i didn't realize how MANY Cal are in a pretzel! So not worth it when it's not like they're even very filling! Report
hmmm, kismet because I just did a 13.1 mile bike ride yesterday and a few weeks before had exactly this pretzel in Yankee stadium (and that was ALL I had, I was somewhat proud, thinking it was the best option available) but if I had to bike to earn that pretzel - it was SO not worth it. Could have had yogurt, fruit and then some and my body would have thanked me more... Report
I love soft pretzels. Especially the kind from the mall (aunt annie's or whatev). i looked up the nutrition facts for those, an original pretzel is 340 cals and 5 g fat. i want one now, but will have to settle for something else. :) Report
I agree that the point is that the fair is probably a 1x a year thing for most people, so not sure why this is a big deal unless you go to a fair, or similar, daily. We go to the fair every year (coming up soon), but because we are cheap we make sure to eat a big lunch before we go, bring something like jerky, nuts, bars to snack on, and then usually eat something like taco's (we live in CA...naturally there are taco's) which in general are fairly low in calories for a light dinner. We do ALWAYS get a small bottle of fresh chocolate milk tho. That is usually our biggest calorie splurge...but hey, it's at least fairly healthy! Report
I don't like pretzles so don't have that problem. However, I love cheese curds and plan on eating them if I go to the fair. Report
Thats insane and so not worth it to me! Who knew?! Report
Its a good thing Indian Fry Bread is healthy. Oh wait I am dreaming. Report
alot of good advice, but come on the fair, pretzel s are great so is the corn and all but aren't you walking and walking to and from the parking lot and around the fair itself. There is alot of good things to choose from or nothing, and don't tell me you don't have anything to eat Report
Thanks for bringing this back Nicole!! I'm slightly amused at all the animosity in the comments about pretzels! The point is not that pretzels are horrible for you- the point is that they are higher in calories than expected and way higher in sodium than necessary. Yes, if you are aware and prepared to "splurge" once in a while for them it's not a big deal, and yes, walking around the fair is going to help. BUT, if you are also eating the other fair foods or get it on your way out and aren't going to walk it off you need to be aware that you are consuming about 1/5 of your daily calories at one shot. I'm really glad to see this- I had no idea soft pretzels were that high- and being from Philly I've had my fair share of pretzels!
Oh- and if you do't bike often, 13 miles is a hefty workout!

Although I have to agree with the poster who mentioned that FitSugar's calorie counts seem way off- I'm not sure where they get their info, but I don't think I'd rely on it.
FitSugar re: cheese pizza= 192 cals; SparkPeople re: same= 380 cals
FitSugar re: corn dog= 210 cals
SparkPeople re: same= 720 cals!
(the pretzel is the same on both) Report
I will be staying away from soft pretzels from now on... Report
i really enjoy this series - thank you nicole for bringing it back! Report
I love soft pretzels, but only eat them on a rare occassion. Report
Okay, but my favorite is salt water taffy. How does that come out in the comparison? Report
My favorite is the elephant ears, but I am lucky to go to a fair even once a year and then I usually forego it as I really have to be in the mood for all that sugar and grease and I don't like spending the money (I am really cheap!!), so--it is an easy one to walk away from. Report
There are some loonies around!

I hate exercise so I try to stick to cals instead of eating treats and try to burn them. It's a copout anyway to exercise to burn. We exercise to get fit.
Claudia Report
Finally you give a healthy choice and then you tear it down. How dumb is this??? That pretzel is large enough for 2 or 3 people to share or 1 or 1 1/2 as a lunch. Who is running your nutrition site? What do they advocate??? a 1/3 pound fatty hamburger on a hi-carb white roll?? Is that a better snack/lunch??? Maybe greasy, fatty, cheese curds, or chocolate covered bacon, even pork rinds & rib eye sandwiches. YUMMY!!! Spark peeps...Why do you put healthy lo-fat, filling choices down & continue to suggest hi-fat, hi-cal other foods? Who's side are you on?? The advertisers or those whom trust you on your web site??? Any chance those hi-cal foodie places are helping pay for your web site? Only asking??? Report
Most of us aren't going to bike 13 miles, so when you realize how long it takes to BURN off calories, it is much better to avoid junk food. Report
I don't like pretzels. I always thought that a pretzel was a low calorie snack. Now I won't feel guilty having a soft serve ice cream. Report
I live in the midwest US, at the fair, I go for the ear(s) of corn, NOT dipped in the humungous vat of butter (or butter-like substance?)...
But those candy apple statisitics are better than I would have guessed. I'll do them next time. Report
I think hot dogs are worth the extra workout...then from chicago...eating hot dogs is a religion here.. Report
I'd eat an ice cream to burn it off on my bike. But I love to ride my bike. Report
I like the caramel apples. I have learned to bring a couple of friends who also love them. We split it and we each get the treat...and some good healthy fruit. Report
Wow, who knew!
But I wanted to comment because I had a friend last semester who was trying to lose weight too. We ate lunch together and our eating habits were so different! She would eat the soft pretzels from the cafeteria and would claim they were not so bad because they were low in fat and were mostly carbs.
I on the other hand ate nuts often with my lunch and didn't mind as long as I counted them in my calories for the day because I knew my nuts had lots of fat, but the healthy kind.
I always wondered how many calories her soft pretzels had and always wanted to argue the low fat is not low calories...but never did. Wish I could give this article to her but I never see her anymore.... Report
Fortunately for me, I guess, I don't digest starchy foods very well, so I tend to stay away from most of that stuff anyway. Don't know if they have this everywhere, but my favorite treat at the fair is corn on the cob grilled in the husk. Yum! Report
I will usually bring my own snack or eat before. Sometimes i will share a medium popcorn with someone. Report
When I go to this places what I do is eat @ home before leaving, that way like the article advises, I won't be tempted. And, if anything, I'll get popcorn. Report
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