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Restaurant Calorie Counts: How Accurate? How Relevant?

Posted Jul 19 2011 6:45pm

A new JAMA study of calories from Tufts shows that the single serving take-out portions of solid foods (not beverages or buffets) from 14 large-chain quick-service restaurants (e.g, Chipotle, McD’s, Bob Evans) vary widely but have about the calories their websites claim.

Sides, desserts, salads and carb-rich foods, however, often have more. On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina’s chips and salsa contained about 1,000 calories more.  About 19% of all take out has over 100 calories more than listed, and sometimes way more–1000 calories more for Outback Steakhouse’s classic blue cheese wedge side salad.

In sit-down quick-service, if you are taking home an entree of less than 600 calories, it’s likely to be more than that.

If you’re taking home an entree with more than 600 calories, it’s likely less than that.

I just don’t think this is useful information! And it’s confusing! And it’s a jungle to eat out at quick-service of any kind! And those 600 calories are usually not a bit filling, and gone in 60 seconds!

I tell my patients that when they eat out (at a quick-service restaurant, driving or sitting), they need to reach into their glove compartment, handbag, backpack or briefcase and pull out their bag of 35 almonds and bottle of water with lime, jamaica or bitters, so they have something to eat and drink until they get home.

When that’s not practical, sit down and order a double order of steamed or grilled vegetables without sauces and steamed or grilled fish-of-the-day, with lemon or salsa.

If it’s served on a platter or a big plate, ask for it to be served on a salad plate, or divide it yourself, at the table, and take home half. You’ll eat less, enjoy it more and save your waist and dollars.

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