Many chain restaurants show customers calorie and fat content on their menus and websites. But just because the information is from the company, does it mean it's true?
Consumer Reports wanted to see just how accurate the numbers are. The watchdog group chose 17 menu offerings at a dozen casual restaurants and fast-food chains and compared their nutritional claims with reality.
They included restaurants like I-Hop, Red Lobster, Cheesecake Factory, and McDonald's. Consumer Reports bought food ranging from fettuccine to french fries from three of the chains restaurant locations.
Back in the labs, testers ground the food to analyze it for calories and fat. Most of the menus and websites were correct. But not all the offerings tested from Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse measured up.
Outback's grilled chicken on the barbie claims 7 grams of fat, but contained as much as 13 grams in Consumer Reports' tests. And Olive Garden's lasagna primavera with grilled chicken is supposed to have 15 grams of fat, but it had as much as 32 grams.
Just as this story was being put together Olive Garden told Consumer Reports the number for the lasagna primavera with grilled chicken on their website was a mistake and should read 20 greams of fat. It's fixed now. But that still doesn't change that Consumer Reports tested the same item from three Olive Garden restaurants showed between 25 and 32 grams of fat.
Olive Garden says the differences are due to variability in serving sizes.
It's important to check because even if you're ordering grilled chicken, that doesn't mean you're getting a lower-calorie meal. For instance, Applebee's fiesta lime chicken is a case in point. it lists 1,200calories and 66 grams of fat!
And when you're checking a menu, watch out for words like "battered," "creamy," "crispy," "crusted," or "stuffed" those all translate into "fattening."
The entire 17 menu items tested by Consumer Reports is in the May 2013 edition of the magazine.