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How Accurate Is Healthy-Menu Info?

It's great when restaurants offer some "healthy" options on their regular menus. But how accurate are those calorie counts?

Sometimes, not very. A study revealed that low-cal restaurant meals may contain up to 18 percent more calories than what's stated in the nutrition information. So consider those numbers a ballpark figure.

The Truth About Food Labels
In the same study, store-bought prepackaged meals often erred on their calorie counts, too, going as much as 8 percent over the listed figure. It's not that the food labels are intending to mislead you. It's just that food service and packaging is not always an exact science. In fact, U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations allow packaged foods to contain up to 20 percent more calories than what's stated on nutrition labels.

Calorie Overload
So what's a few more calories? Well, considering that, for an average person, just 5 percent more calories than you need every day can lead to 10 pounds of weight gain within a year, plenty. Bottom line: Don't let your "healthy" menu choice become an excuse for adding on dessert. The truth is, you may have already had it. Here are some more tips on avoiding calorie overload:

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

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