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Take Menu Calorie Counts With A Grain of Salt

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The fact is 35 percent of America’s daily calories come from restaurants. But are the facts about those calories being reported accurately by restaurants?

To find out, Tufts University of Boston tested nearly 270 meals from more than 40 restaurants in the lab.

Testing calories is so simple. Students even show how it’s done on YouTube. But why does this matter?

“For people with heart conditions, diabetes (and chronic health conditions) they need to keep track, so if we’re a fast food nation, we really need to be aware of what we’re eating,” said family physician Dr. Chris Balgobin.

Balgobin practices what he preaches. After a lifetime of obesity, he shed 120 pounds.

He’s encouraged by the Tufts research, which found about 80 percent of menu items were at, or under, their reported calorie levels.

But 19 percent of restaurant foods tested more than 100 calories higher.

While we want to get our money’s worth, Balgobin said the obesity is too high a price to pay.

“We’re gonna be increasing health care costs,” he said.
“We are going to have a sicker population than we grew up with.”

In 1976, 14 percent of Americans were obese. Today, 34 percent are and nearly 70 percent are overweight.

Balgobin encourages his patients to look up their favorite restaurant menus online — many also list nutritional information.

On Monday, he went to Chili’s and ordered grilled salmon at around 500 calories, instead of the pasta with garlic chicken at closer to 1,500 calories.

“Look for healthy choices — fish, lean proteins, chicken, vegetables,” he said. “Reduce your starches, reduce your pastas, reduce your breads.”

Interestingly, researchers found more meals over their reported calorie-count in sit-down restaurants rather than at fast food joints. The suspicion is that over-sized portions are the reason.

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