Report

Why Menu Calorie Counts Are a Big Lie

Your good-faith effort to make smart menu selections could be in vain.

Report

Why Menu Calorie Counts Are a Big Lie

Your good-faith effort to make smart menu selections could be in vain.

In a recent study published in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of Tufts University researchers looked at 269 menu items at 42 popular chains and found that nearly 20 percent of the dishes contained at least 100 calories more than posted, with one side item containing more than 1,000 additional calories!

What's worse, the study showed that low-calorie dishes like soups and salads—foods people generally choose when trying to lose weight—had the biggest calorie discrepancies. The researchers also found that sit-down restaurants were more likely than fast-food joints to display inaccurate calorie counts. This likely stems, they say, from the leeway line cooks at those restaurants have in the food-preparation process, which allows them to act carelessly with big-calorie ingredients like oil, butter and salad dressing.

Study coauthor Susan Roberts, PhD, told CNN, "I think restaurants have a lot to answer for here," and we agree. When the number of calories is continuously understated, restaurants need to either reel in the calories being tossed around their kitchens or adjust the numbers on their nutritional reports. A couple extra calories here and there aren't devastating, but 100 calories per meal most certainly can be. If you add that just once a day, you'll pack on 10 extra pounds this year. It's bad enough that healthy chain offerings are few and far between, but punishing patrons…it’s a nutritional travesty!