Are Calorie Counts on Menus Accurate?

July 20, 2011 · 2 comments

Today, I went to Panera Bread to do some blogging in a climate controlled environment.  Boston is hitting close to 90-degree weather and I do not have air conditioning.  Since I was taking up a table, I decided to have some lunch as well.  Panera lists their calorie counts on the menu, even though I do not believe it is a law in Massachusetts.  I chose the seasonal summer salad with chicken, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, walnuts and poppyseed dressing.  The menu says it was 300 calories.

However, there are reports this week that the total seen on menus is not accurate for healthier options.  It was found that most health conscious selections were at least underestimated by 100-calories.  If you eat every meal out, which many people do, this will add up.  If you are trying to lose weight, this will most likely derail your effort.

The study did find that the higher calorie counts were accurate.  So what does this mean?  Since you feel like you are being “good,” you’re probably more likely to eat more later.  This is called the “reduced-fat” phenomenon.  You underestimate how many calories you eat and end up consuming more overall to reward your good behavior.

Susan Roberts, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University, reports that while most listed calorie counts are accurate, those for the lowest calorie options are on average 100 calories below than what the foods really contain. And the listed counts often average the amount of calories over several different plates of the same meal, so there’s no guarantee of exactly how many calories you’re consuming with any one serving.

The misleading information, says Roberts, is “disgusting. Anybody trying to lose weight or avoid gaining weight — and that’s about 50% of the American public — are ordering the lowest calorie foods when they eat out, so this is an important group of foods for American health. And the information about their calories is inaccurate.”

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2011/07/20/are-calorie-counts-on-menus-accurate-not-so-much/#ixzz1SgJcDrVk

Solution suggestion?  Reduce the amount of times you eat your meals out.  Use your experience when eye balling a serving size.  Eat with a larger fork!  Weird yes, but another study that came out this week said eating with a larger fork at restaurants helps you eat less.  I don’t find this study particularly truthful given my own strategies but it must have worked for someone to released as a study, right?

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1 Mary @ Bites and Bliss July 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm

I learned this after working in a restaurant that the calorie counts are made by what the company standard is for size/ingredients…but each restaurant makes them differently so there’s really no telling. But, it’s still good they’re at least posting!!

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