How Accurate are Menu Calorie Counts?

menuThere you are, in your favorite restaurant. You’re being responsible and taking a look at the nutritional info to see what some smart choices are. The real question is: Can you trust the nutritional info that restaurants provide?

Where Do They Get Their Information?

Restaurants rely on different sources to come up with their nutritional info. They use the data from laboratory testing, food supplier info and published resources to help them estimate nutritional info. If there’s misinformation along the way then that inaccuracy will trickle down into the final count.

In fact, researchers who tested meals from popular restaurant chains found that, on average, the meals had 18 percent more calories than what was listed on the nutritional info. There was actually a very large variation in the findings with some meals coming up 36 percent less than what was listed, while others were as much as 200 percent higher. So really, it’s kind of a crapshoot because the listed info can greatly misrepresent the actual count in any direction! Those extra calories would make a really big difference.

What You Can Do

Eating out from time to time is inevitable, but there are ways you can try to minimize the damage to your calorie count for the day when you’re going out on the town. The first step is just being aware that the nutritional information may not be correct. It’s an estimate and you need to treat it like that. You know what choices are healthier than others, so rely on your own intuition, too.

Portion control is also a big problem when eating out. Chefs are not in the back doing exact measurements and portions when they plate your food, and that can have a big impact on total calories. It’s worth it to learn how to eyeball portion sizes so that you can get an idea of how much is one serving and consume your meal accordingly. Taking leftovers home is not a bad thing!

While it’s nice that more restaurants are including calorie counts on their menus, if you’re going to learn how to eat healthy then you have to learn how to eat smart. You shouldn’t have to forego dining out with friends or family and not enjoying what restaurants have to offer. If you arm yourself with the right information then there’s no hurdle you can’t get over in order to be healthier and happier.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Bill Smith

This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.