Calorie counts listed for packaged foods averaged 8% higher than stated, and for restaurants it was 18%, according to Susan Roberts and her team. (The recipe for this Boston Market cornbread is amazingly simple. From Thesistersdish blog.)
But a closer look at the paper, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows something different, and perhaps more insidious.
It's all in the free side dishes.
You order something you think is healthy, and it is, but they add in a little something extra and suddenly what was low-cal becomes high-cal.
We've all seen it. The dressing and bacon bits on the salad. The french fries with the club sandwich. The mac-and-cheese beside the beef patty, the apple cobbler with the skinless chicken. We see it as a little extra, a prize for being so righteous. And it's a calorie bomb.
With the side dishes, some restaurant items had 245% of the calories being advertised, the study found. Put the stated figure in your diet calculator, assume you're a good little dieter, but that little tete a tete with your friends actually blew your diet all to heck.
Obviously, one answer is that when you're on a diet make what you are going to eat yourself. The regimen described by Alton Brown in his most recent Good Eats episode Live and Let Diet can have you looking like Skelator in a few months.