Restaurant calorie counts put to the test by Consumer Reports


Many restaurants now list nutritional information on their menus and websites. Consumer Reports wanted to know how accurate it is.

"We chose 17 menu offerings at a dozen casual restaurants and fast-food chains and compared their nutritional claims with reality," said Kim Kleman of Consumer Reports.

They included restaurants like International House of Pancakes, Red Lobster, Cheesecake Factory,and McDonald's. Consumer Reports bought food ranging from fettuccine to French fries from three restaurant locations. Back in the labs, testers ground the food to analyze it for calories and fat.

Most of the menus and websites were correct. But not all the offerings tested from Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse measured up.

Outback's grilled chicken on the barbie claims 7 grams of fat, but contained as much as 13 grams in Consumer Reports' tests. Olive Garden's lasagna primavera with grilled chicken is supposed to have 15 grams of fat, but it had as much as 32 grams.

"We're glad to see that most of the menu information was correct," Kleman said."It's important to check because even if you're ordering grilled chicken, you might not be getting a lower-calorie meal."

Applebee's fiesta lime chicken is a case in point. It lists 1,200 calories and 66 grams of fat.

When you're checking a menu, watch out for words like battered, creamy, crispy, crusted or stuffed. Those all signal fattening.

Finally, beyond the calorie counts, there's a few things you can do to help cut calories. For one, water for thirst, ask for your sauces and dressing on the side and remember you don't have to clean your plate.

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