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  • 9/24/2007

Restaurant dining makes people fat

restaurant dining makes people fat

People who opt for a meal at a healthy restaurant often consume more calories than they would dining at fast food joints that make no health claims, a new study shows.

The researchers found that individuals underestimate the calorie content of foods served at restaurants they see as healthier, to a degree that could easily lead to weight gain.

for example, "people think that the same 1,000-calorie meal has 159 fewer calories if it comes from subway than if it comes from mcdonalds," Dr. Pierre Chandon, at insead in Fontainebleau, France, told reporters.

"If they choose to consume this fictitious "calorie credit" on other food, and it they eat at subway twice a week, they could gain an extra 4.9 pounds a year," he added.

While restaurants presenting themselves as healthy have grown at a much faster rate over the past five years than traditional fast food restaurants, Americans" waistlines have not been shrinking; in fact, the nation"s population is fatter than ever, note Chandon and his colleague Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University in Ithaca in their report in the journal of consumer research.

The researchers theorized that people might take in more calories when they eat in healthy restaurants, and conducted a series of studies to test this notion.

People eating the subway sandwich were more likely to choose a large drink, less likely to opt for diet soda, and more likely to get cookies.

People who want to control their weight or trim down need to think objectively about calorie content, and not let their perceptions be clouded by whether a food is supposed to be good or bad for them, Chandon said.

"We have to move away from thinking of food in "good food / bad food" (terms) and think also about "how much food." In France, for example, people enjoy relatively fat diets but are less overweight simply because portion sizes in restaurants and at home are smaller." he said.

Chandon suggested one technique to help people judge calorie counts more accurately: "Instead of estimating the number of calories of the whole meal (which leads to undercounting) look at the sandwich, the side, the beverages, and the drink and add that up. Our research showed that this "piecemeal" method is very effective."

restaurant dining makes people fat

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