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On a diet? Buyer beware

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Lots of people are trying to lose weight. But what if your diet ends up sabotaging your efforts?

Your mother said "don't believe everything you read." And a new study finds this advice can be applied to nutritional information of the food you eat.

If you're on the go, and on a diet, many of us turn to a frozen meal in a box. Now, new research reveals you may be eating more than you bargained for.

Researchers at Tufts University looked at 10 different frozen meals, including selections from Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice and South Beach brands.

They analyzed each meal and discovered the frozen meals purchased at supermarkets averaged 8 percent more calories than stated on the label.

Here's an example: Lean Cuisine shrimp and angel hair pasta. Flip over the box and you see the serving size posted is 283 grams and 220 total calories.

But in the lab, it's a different story. Instead of 283 grams a serving, they found a lot more food: 345 grams.

As for calories, instead of 220 they found the equivalent of 282. That's 28 percent more calories -- and that's not all.

They also checked out 29 popular "low-cal" items on restaurant menus and found they contained an average of 18 percent more calories than what's advertised.

That means adding nearly 100 additional calories to a 500-calorie dinner. If you're on a diet, those extra calories can make a difference in the long run.

Eating 5 percent extra calories a day -- calories you're not counting on -- could lead to a 10-pound weight gain in a single year.

The manufacturers of the products used in the study were all contacted. Only Nestle, who makes Lean Cuisine, responded.

The Nestle spokeswoman says what's listed may vary up to 20 percent because there is a natural variability in ingredients. That 20 percent overage is allowed by the FDA.

So if you're on a diet, buyer beware.

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill


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