Reduced-Energy Meals May Under-State Energy Content

Restaurant, supermarket meals found to grossly underestimate calorie intake they provide

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Meals sold as reduced energy by supermarkets and restaurants may under-state the caloric content by a significant amount, according to a study in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Lorien E. Urban, of Tufts University in Boston, and colleagues measured the energy values of 29 reduced-energy foods sold at quick-serve and sit-down restaurants, and 10 frozen meals sold in supermarkets.

For the restaurant meals, the energy values were on average 18 percent higher than those stated, while the supermarket frozen meals under-stated energy values by an average of 8 percent, the investigators discovered. Some of the restaurant foods exceeded stated energy values by up to 100 percent of the stated content, with free side dishes adding another 45 percent, the researchers found.

"Based on these findings, registered dietitians can advise consumers about the wide variability in accuracy of stated energy contents for prepared reduced-energy foods," the authors write. "Approaches to improving the accuracy of stated energy information may include increased attention to quality control in food preparation. Additional measures may also be needed such as improved federal and state regulations and a monitoring system to ensure compliance."

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