The Calorie Margin of Error

In weekly workshops I go over tricks for eating out and the importance of checking the calories in your meal selection before you get to the restaurant. One thing that I do not think is ever stressed enough (that is extra important to keep in mind if you eat out multiple times during the week) is to remember that the reported calorie counts are the best of the best and not the normal amount served. The calorie counts on the nutrition database reports are based on food products with exact measurements of each and every ingredient and put together over hours by a team of people. When you go to eat out at a chain restaurant the actual counts are going to differ depending on who is preparing your food. Just to confirm the margin of error in chain restaurant calorie counts, this article (click on link) goes into more shocking accounts on nutritional inaccuracy.

The main points from the article are quite shocking. A team of scientists traveled to 42 different restaurants in the United States and tested the calories in 269 of the actual food selections being served. After testing the menu items, only seven percent of them were within ten calories of the counts stated. In fast food chains the average amount over the stated was 134 calories, while in sit down chains it went up to an average of 225 calories over. That may not sound like much for one meal, but think of consuming 100-200 extra calories daily and not even knowing it! Next time you go out to eat and check the calorie counts on the menu or website be sure to tack on an extra bit of calories for that extra bit of mayo, etc. that is very possibly not being measured out to meet expectations!

Jessica Hummel, Nutrition Counselor