Can Calorie Counters Believe What They Read?

Virtually every weight-loss plan includes counting calories in some form, so dieters often read the back of the box of their microwavable meal or inquire about the dishes at their favorite restaurants. However, according to a new study, accuracy may be too much to expect from the companies behind the calorie listings.

Researchers analyzed 10 popular chain restaurants, and the results, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, show that the provided calorie counts are significantly off. On average, the food at these restaurants is 18% higher in calories than the listed amount.

"If every time you eat out, you get a couple of hundred calories or more than you think, that can add up really easily," study author and Tufts professor Susan Roberts explained. "There's a big drumbeat for people putting calories on menus, but that's only useful if the calories are right."

But what may be even more shocking are the findings about frozen meals intended for dieters. When people purchase food by brands like Weight Watchers, Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, they typically take for granted that the calories listed are correct. However, the study found that the discrepancy between the printed number and the actual calories is a surprising 8%-and no, not 8% lower than what's listed, unfortunately.

Experts say it's safer to treat the number you see like a ballpark figure and not a scientifically unquestionable integer. Keep in mind that allows a whopping 20% margin of error for a package's nutritional information, so making room for a company's mistakes in your daily diet will improve your chances for weight-loss success.

3 Comments
  • Not Cool
    Posted on

    Someone should start a class action law suit against those diet frozen food companies that have duped consumers and posted lower calorie counts... It is incredibly horrible to mess with people's health!!!

  • jb
    Posted on

    This is so typical of our government. I like many others thought I could trust what was on the back of these boxes but of course, why should we be stupid enough to ever think we can trust anyone anymore

  • LG
    Posted on

    This is really unfortunate as I am one of those people who has taken for granted that the numbers on the FROZEN meals are accurate. Makes me so mad that they can get away with it. If I falsely advertised in my job I'd probably be fined and thrown in jail, but the FDA lets any company who will pay them get away with anything! I guess we just need to make and eat our own homemade food from now on. It's healthier anyway. I did like a Lean Cuisine every now and then, though.

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