Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Study: Beware restaurant calorie listings

It's no shocker that a study this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the calorie contents listed by popular restaurants was sometimes blown away by the actual calorie contents of the food.

To be fair, the majority of calorie listings were pretty much on the mark. But if you need to watch your calories, that isn't good enough, especially considering that some of the discrepancies were huge - as much as 1,000 calories more than what the restaurant had posted.

This underscores why we all should know the basics about nutrition and use a little common sense. If a salad is delicious because it's drowned in dressing and buried in other toppings, doesn't it stand to reason that simply containing a wedge of iceburg doesn't make it diet food? Imagine it without the lettuce. And if you put half a pound of cheese on some nachos, could the dish possibly be just a 100 calories?

You can find nutrition information from the Mayo Clinic and the federal government. You also can pick up a lot of knowledge by reading labels at the supermarket. A tablespoon of butter has about 100 calories whether you eat it at home or in a restaurant. So if you eat out and your order of steak or broccoli comes dripping with butter, you probably don't need a menu or web site to tell you that you've probably got a couple hundred extra fat calories added to your dish.

That doesn't excuse restaurants from either fixing the calorie listings or fixing their preparation to better match the listings. But as the old saying goes, caveat emptor.

More about the study: "One in 5 restaurant calorie listings is off"

You might also like: "Restaurants to offer more-healthful fare for kids"
"On the Plate, a Pinch [of salt] or a Pound?"

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