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    American, Chinese and Italian meals average around 1,500 calories, researchers say

    By Alan Mozes

    HealthDay Reporter

    WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Calorie-counters beware: A new study reports that more than nine in 10 U.S. restaurants are serving meals that exceed the recommended calorie limit for a single meal.

    And that's just the entree. Drinks, appetizers and desserts weren't included.

    "We feel the results are extremely important because there is a general perception out there that fast food is the problem," said study author Susan Roberts.

    "What this study shows is that all restaurants are terrible when it comes to providing excessive portions that overfeed people. It's not just fast food but virtually all of them," said Roberts. She is director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

    What's more, Roberts said, the awareness plate is literally stacked against the consumer. "Even if you have a Ph.D. in nutrition, as I do, it's almost impossible to make an accurate guess of what is on your plate because there are so many hidden calories."

    The study was based on an analysis of 364 American, Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese meals offered at restaurants in Boston, San Francisco and Little Rock, Ark., between 2011 and 2014.

    Sampled establishments were both local and from large chains. But that made little difference. In fact, non-chain meals were found to be just as heavy on the belly as chain restaurant offerings. Which is to say, they averaged in the neighborhood of 1,200 calories a meal. That's more than double the 570 calories experts recommend that the average adult woman consume at lunch or dinner, the researchers said.

    "I feel like women get a particularly bad deal with these excessive portions," Roberts said, given that their caloric needs are, on average, substantially less than a man's.

    Fans of American, Chinese and Italian fare may be particularly dismayed by the study findings. These foods topped the list with an average 1,495 calories per meal. The researchers noted that the average woman in the United States needs about 2,000 calories a day, and the average U.S. man, about 2,500 calories.

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