Depending on what state you live in and where you’ve traveled to recently, you might have noticed restaurant menus’ convenient (or not so convenient when you want a guilt-free indulgence) calorie count next to each item. Haven’t seen it yet? You will soon. Federal law will require even more restaurants across the country to display the calorie count on their menu in the near future. But how accurate are these calorie calculations?
According to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the answer depends on where you’re eating. The study evaluated foods from 42 restaurants in Massachusetts, Arkansas and Indiana.
Results show that fast-food restaurants’ calculations tend to be more accurate than sit-down restaurants. From all the restaurants examined, one in five of all the foods contained at least 100 more calories than what the menu listed. One-hundred extra calories a day might not sound like a lot but over the course of a year, those 100 extra calories can lead to a 10- to 15-pound weight gain, the researchers say.
Overall, the researchers found a difference of about 10 calories per portion. However, some foods were significantly off, with 26 common foods found to contain an average of 273 more calories than what was stated on the menu.
This can be problematic for dieters eating out and the researchers suggest that those counting calories allow for variability in restaurant menu calorie counts. Watch out for salad dressing, they also warn: it can potentially add hundreds of calories to a salad.
Does your favorite restaurant post calorie counts on the menu? If not, will it affect how you order?