Posted calorie counts in chain restaurants are often inaccurate, and weight-conscious consumers who select soups and salads are especially likely to be served heftier dishes than advertised, according to a new study reported in the Boston Globe.
Their analysis of a wide assortment of items from 42 national fast food and sit-down restaurant chains found that nearly 1 in 5 samples were at least 100 calories over the amounts listed on the restaurant websites when measured in a laboratory.
Restaurants tended to overstate the amounts in higher-calorie foods such as pizza, meats, and side dishes, but lower-calorie foods, such as soups and salads, were among the most likely to have understated calorie listings, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While 100 extra calories lurking in a salad may not seem alarming, a consumer who ate that additional amount each day would pack on, on average, 10 pounds a year. In the study, scientists ordered the items as take-out – including soups and salads, meats, side dishes, sandwiches, pizzas, and desserts – and analyzed them in a lab. They found significantly larger discrepancies between advertised and actual calorie counts in sit-down restaurants, compared with fast-food chains.
“Fast-food restaurants are always considered the bad guys, but, in this case, they were the good guys, if you want a reliable calorie count, because there is more control in the factory’’ where the food is prepared, Roberts said.
As you know, I’m not an advocate of eating fast food, or eating out a lot in general, if you can help it. Even so, I was surprised by this — I often use posted calorie counts as a guide to keep my dietary habits on track. Do you find this study shocking?