January 14, 2010
A study published recently in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that the caloric content listed on many packaged frozen meals and restaurant dishes is not always accurate. In fact, when Tufts University researchers analyzed these foods with a bomb calorimeter, they found that of 10 frozen meals purchased at a grocer, actual calorie levels averaged 8% higher than stated on the label. Restaurant dishes fared a bit worse, averaging 18% more calories than reported. Some restaurant items contained up to 200% of the stated values.
This isn’t to say that all calorie information on packaged food labels or restaurant dishes is inaccurate, as researchers found that the calorie content was over-reported for some foods they tested. But, the study does tell label readers the following:
- While the calorie content of a food is notable, it’s equally, if not more important to know the ingredients in a food. What is making up those calories: sugar, corn syrup, palm kernel oil? Where your heart health is concerned, these should be priorities.
- If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t rest solely on a food’s reported calorie level. Although keeping an eye on calories is important in weight loss, so is following your body’s own hunger/fullness cues. This is especially helpful to dieters who consume low calorie foods, but end up eating more if they haven’t reached their “calorie allotment” for the day.
- The best way to control your calories is to make your own meals. That way, you know what’s going into a dish, and you can monitor your portion sizes to control your overall calorie intake.
Written by Melissa Ohlson, MS, RD, LD, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation.
Get more information on nutrition strategies. To make an appointment with a registered dietitian, call the Cleveland Clinic Preventive Cardiology - 216.444.9353 or 800.223.2273 ext. 9353. Or, get a nutrition consultation online with our private and secure MyConsult Nutrition Consultation.
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