The Accuracy of Stated Energy Contents of Reduced-Energy, Commercially Prepared Foods

Department of Nutritional Sciences, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association (Impact Factor: 3.92). 01/2010; 110(1):116-23. DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.10.003
Source: PubMed


The accuracy of stated energy contents of reduced-energy restaurant foods and frozen meals purchased from supermarkets was evaluated. Measured energy values of 29 quick-serve and sit-down restaurant foods averaged 18% more than stated values, and measured energy values of 10 frozen meals purchased from supermarkets averaged 8% more than originally stated. These differences substantially exceeded laboratory measurement error but did not achieve statistical significance due to considerable variability in the degree of underreporting. Some individual restaurant items contained up to 200% of stated values and, in addition, free side dishes increased provided energy to an average of 245% of stated values for the entrees they accompanied. These findings suggest that stated energy contents of reduced-energy meals obtained from restaurants and supermarkets are not consistently accurate, and in this study averaged more than measured values, especially when free side dishes were taken into account. If widespread, this phenomenon could hamper efforts to self-monitor energy intake to control weight, and could also reduce the potential benefit of recent policy initiatives to disseminate information on food energy content at the point of purchase.

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    • "First, previous research has demonstrated that energy content information from restaurants is accurate on average, but that there are discrepancies between stated and actual energy content on some types of menu items. It has been shown that, in FSRs, energy content was understated for higher-energy items and overstated for lower-energy items [42]. Thus, for some restaurants in our sample, it is possible that the estimated energy reductions when substituting FV for French fries may be overstated. "
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    • "The obesogenic environment (Zeller et al., 2007) gives the idea that the man-made environment can be less (or more) conducive to gain weight, whether it is by making physical activity easier (or more difficult) or facilitating (or hampering) the making of healthier eating choices or combinations of food items (Kwate, Yau, Loh, & Williams, 2009; Mikkelsen, 2011). What is served as side dishes (e.g. a staple, vegetables, condiments or sauces) and the accompanying beverages can have a considerable impact on the energy provided by the total meal (Ishii, Takizawa, Okabe et al., 2005; Urban et al., 2010; Best & Appleton, Meat Science 95 (2013) 694–698 "
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