These Restaurant Calories Count: Too good to be true? (2023)

These Restaurant Calories Count: Too good to be true? (1)

Some snacks contain the calories of a meal.

Five hundred and ten calories in oneBut-Muffinat Dunkin' Donuts? One thousand one hundred and fifty calories in onegarden omeletteat IHOP? And 2,210 calories in oneblooming onionAperitivo no Outback Steakhouse?

"It's shocking," said Loreta Gemeviciute, a Manhattan resident and former Starbucks buyer.Twenty Mocha Frappuccinosuntil he looked at his 500 calorie stats. "I could eat a good whole meal with that many calories."

Ever since calorie information appeared on menus across the city, New Yorkers have delighted in the abundance of data. Some consumers can hardly believe their eyes.

And maybe they shouldn't.

LosRulewhich took effect March 31, requires restaurants across the country with 15 or more franchises to post calorie data on menus. cares about the cityobesity epidemic, ahealth Departmentargued that people might avoid some foods in favor of healthier foods if they knew how many calories lurk under the Big Mac's special sauce and sesame seed bun for accurate counts. Many nutritionists are praising the city's efforts to help New Yorkers eat better, but critics say the law was drafted in a hurry and will be impossible to enforce.

Meanwhile, consumers need to realize that not all calorie counts are created equal. The calorie information on New York menus is much less scrutinized than the nutritional information on products sold in supermarkets.

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For one thing, the calorie content of on-site meals can vary wildly, even in restaurants that use standardized cooking methods.

"That's the problem with food: You can't really make it a science if you cook it to order," he said.Marissa Lippert, a registered dietitian in Manhattan. "Would a chicken breast cost three ounces each in a mid-range restaurant? Probably not. That could make a big difference."

When food preparers add a little more cheese or a little more oil, the nutritional values ​​can drop hundreds of calories. Ask Quanisha Stackhouse, who works atby Nathan.

"My small fries look like medium fries and my medium fries look like large fries," he said. "I think when people are paying $7 for a meal, they want to get their money's worth. I put extra bacon on salads, extra on everything.

So when it comes to calories on the plate and calories on the menu, how close is good enough?

Losfederal regulationrelating to calorie counts in foods sold in stores requires that the number on the label be within 20% of the actual content of the food. However, New York law does not specify a level of accuracy.

"It's actually a very long gap," said Chuck Hunt, the company's executive vice president.New York State Restaurant Association🇧🇷 the club hasdefied the rulein court, claiming it violated federal regulations and violated food companies' commercial free speech rights.

Proponents of the law argue that restaurant menus often fall into the realm of accuracy. But laboratory analysis of calorie counts has shown that total nutrition in restaurants can be wildly inaccurate, even for large chains.

se oPublic Interest Science Center, an independent advocacy group for nutrition and healthI tried the ones from the olive gardenCalorie information, significant discrepancies noted. the chainstomato hats, posted at less than 640 calories, had 990 calories, or 55% more calories than listed.

Similar discrepancies emerged in ABC2 Newstested foodsat Taco Bell, Macaroni Grill, Cheesecake Factory and other restaurants. Grilled NoodlesMeal "skinny chicken", listed as 500 calories, came out as 1022 calories, more than double the calories listed. Most of the dishes tested in the ABC2 News experiment also had significant inaccuracies.

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menu monitoring

These Restaurant Calories Count: Too good to be true? (2)

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Under the new regulation, you'll largely take the city's restaurants at their word that the calorie counts they report are accurate. Unlike federal authoritiesFood and drug management, the city does not have a calorie label monitoring system.

“We will take appropriate action if we receive complaints; We haven't done any testing yet," said Jessica Scaperotti, press secretary for the city's health department.

There is also no systematic testing to ensure that restaurants are not miscalculating or misrepresenting their dates, the health department said. In contrast, the FDA has complex procedures for testing the accuracy of its food safety program.

"FDA inspections are risk-based, which means that companies with a history of safety violations are inspected more often than those that don't," said Michael Herndon, a spokesman for the agency. "And there are routine checks."

Like the city, the FDA allows food manufacturers to calculate their own calorie data through laboratory analysis or other methods. But the FDA collects nutrition labels during routine inspections, performs laboratory tests to verify the listings' accuracy, and reserves the power to remove a product from shelves.

The New York law "just wasn't written the same way as the FDA rule," said Sara Markt, deputy press secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services. Scaperotti added that the city can test whether a restaurant's calorie data looks suspicious.

calories in the test

These Restaurant Calories Count: Too good to be true? (3)

Photo (CC) through theMatt O´Hara

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The city's new order could be grounds for lawsuits. Consumers who believe that misleading calorie information constitutes false advertising can take legal action against the restaurants and the city. And because the rule does not specify standards for accuracy, there can be arguments between restaurant owners and inspectors with different interpretations of the accuracy of the data.

"There are plaintiff attorneys lurking around waiting to sue restaurants for everything they do," said Hunt, who believes the city did not consider the possibility of lawsuits against restaurants when it passed the law. "The problem with lawsuits is that no matter how absurd and ridiculous the claim, you still have to defend yourself, and the legal fees are incredible," he added.

Lawsuits are already pending in Seattlebeesjchilli, for the calorie count of your menus. When a group of consumers were skeptical about the totals and lab-tested the meals, they found that the foods contained significantly more calories and fat than the menus indicated.

“If someone has a dietary or medical restriction, that is a concern and could have health implications,” said David Breskin, lead attorney in the case against the currents.

But because the New York City Department of Health requires and regulates calorie information, Breskin says the city could be at legal risk as much as its restaurants. "There are a lot of interesting legal questions associated with this, one of which is whether there is a city's personal obligation to any particular individual candidate," he said.

According to Breskin, cities are generally not accountable to individuals, but some laws interpreted to create a "special relationship" between individuals and the city open the door for citizens to sue city governments. He gave the example of homeowners who can sometimes sue building inspectors who have misvalued their properties.

Breskin added that mandatory disclaimers can help consumers understand that calorie counts can vary.

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What should the consumer do?

So should you just ignore calorie counting?

Not according to Lippert and other nutritionists, who see the new law as a sensible move.

"Published information has many benefits," he said. "If there's a sandwich that has 400 calories and another that has 1,100 calories, people might try to choose the dish with the fewest calories."

However, the city suggests using the total more accurately. "Just 100 extra calories a day adds 10 pounds a year. The extra pounds can lead to obesity and diabetes, two major health problems that are on the rise in New York City, as well as heart disease," says the restaurant's compliance guide. . published

The number of calories in more than 100 calories surprised some consumers. A photographyof two Dunkin Donuts franchisesfeatured one posting an 80-calorie chocolate-dipped donut, while another listed 340 calories (sorry donut lovers, this is the latest).

From himself Sheryl Imperati, whoblogsabout the diet that allowed him to lose from 196 to 146 pounds, he saw that Starbuck'sPeach and Apple Pieit was only 120 calories, she thought she had discovered a dieter's dream. "I hardly believe it," he wrote at the time.

Imperati encouraged readers to try the product. "Enjoyed this NEW amazing breakfast all week," she wrote.

But Imperati lost weight by carefully managing her meals and learned a few things about nutrition. She got a kitchen scale and a calculatordefinitelythe peach and apple cobblers that sounded too good to be true were just that.

When Starbucks finally updated the item's calorie information, the calorie count more than doubled to 280 calories.

"I am surprised that New York City has not considered a nutrition verification process that would be released as a result of the new regulation," said Imperati. "Until there is some accountability, consumers need to carefully consider the information presented to them."

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