A new study says food at popular chain restaurants and in the frozen food aisles can be more fattening than advertised.
A study of meals from 10 restaurant chains including Ruby Tuesday and Wendy's found calorie counts averaging 18 percent more than the values listed by the restaurants.
Diet meals made by Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, Healthy Choice and others averaged 8 percent higher than the numbers on the label.
The study was led by Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, and published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Roberts says the study "raises a big issue" and that posting calories for consumers is only useful if the numbers are right.
Fast-food factsWhile a few extra calories per meal may not wreck a diet, over a longer period of time, they can have a significant effect on a person's weight, says nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D. At a time when more states are requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus, the labels need more scrutiny, she says.
"There can be a lot of inaccuracies, especially for smaller food companies," says Taub-Dix, msnbc.com contributor and author of "Read It Before You Eat It" (Plume, Summer 2010). "Consumers should read labels carefully, and if they suspect that a product has an inaccurate label, they should not be afraid to complain — only squeaky wheels get greased."
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