Health Team

Restaurants miscalculate calorie counts, study finds

Fast-food and sit-down restaurants often miscalculate the calorie counts they post on menus, creating confusion for people who are trying to keep an eye on their waistlines, according to researchers at Tufts University in Boston.

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BOSTON — Researchers at a Boston university found that the calorie counts on restaurant menus are often miscalculated, creating confusion for people who are trying to keep an eye on their waistlines.

Researchers at Tufts University brought restaurant food back to their laboratories, weighed, processed, freeze dried it and then crushed it into a fine powder, which they say is the only way to get an accurate calorie count.

"Typically, the foods that were stated as low-calorie on the menu contained more calories that they should, which is really bad for dieters. They high-calorie foods actually contained fewer calories than they should," said Susan B. Roberts, who is heading the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We had one food that came in that contained 1,000 calories more than the amount listed on the menu," Roberts said.

Studies show that nearly one-third of the daily calories consumed by people in the U.S. comes from food prepared outside of the home and about one in two Americans eats out at least three times a week.

Where restaurants have started posting calorie counts on menus, consumers count on those to make healthy choices in a nation where two-thirds of people are overweight or obese.

The study found that fast-food restaurants reported calorie counts more accurately than sit-down establishments and were more consistent with quality control. While soups and salads had the most variation between reported and actual calorie counts, pizza was the most accurate.