Tufts University researchers set out to analyze the calories in the most popular dishes at 30 randomly selected ethnic restaurants in the Boston area. The restaurants were all small or independently owned and did not have nutrition information about their meals on their menus or on their websites. The dishes came with their usual side orders.
The average calorie content of the 157 meals the researchers analyzed: 1,327 calories. That’s about twice the amount of calories in a meal that a typical person needs to maintain a healthy body weight.
And that’s not counting appetizers, desserts, and drinks!
No wonder we eat less when we choose home-cooked meals.
Cuisine with the fewest calories:
Vietnamese. Also lower than average were Mexican, Greek, Thai, and Japanese.
Cuisines with the most calories:
Chinese, Indian, and Italian.
The researchers also found huge differences in calorie counts for the same dish in different restaurants. For example, an order of tandoori chicken in one Indian restaurant had 1,192 calories. But in another, it had 2,921 calories, well more than twice as much.
What to do, aside from searching out Vietnamese, Greek, Thai, Mexican, and Japanese dining? Dishes at small or independent restaurants had substantially more calories than the same dishes at national chains.
So, if you’re eating out at a local place, pay attention to the portion sizes you’re served
Source: JAMA Intern. Med. 173:1292, 2013.
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