Count those calories when you eat out because the chef won't!

According to a survey carried out in the U.S., counting how many calories are in the food they prepare is not something the average chef in a restaurant bothers about.

In a survey of 300 restaurant chefs across America it has been revealed that chefs believe the taste and appearance of food matters most, along with the expectations of the customer, and the size of portions is for the diner to decide.

The survey by the Obesity Society, has found that while chefs agree that big servings encourage people to eat too much, chefs feel how much is eaten is up to the diner to decide.

Of those surveyed only one in six chefs felt calorie content was very important and half said it didn't matter at all.

The survey was presented at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society last week, and doctors commenting said that the increase in portion sizes during the last few decades is a worrying trend as two-thirds of Americans eat at least one meal a week at a restaurants, which they say are now offering an increasing array of diverse and fattening cuisine.

Thomas Wadden, president of the Obesity Society and director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine believes that as portion sizes increase people will consume more calories.

The study was led by Barbara Rolls, an obesity researcher at Pennsylvania State University; she and her team surveyed chefs attending culinary meetings in 2005.

Two-thirds were executive chefs at fine or casual dining restaurants, and the rest were assistant or kitchen chefs; almost all had worked as chefs or cooks for at least 20 years, and the majority had a degree in culinary arts.

Seventy percent of the chefs said food presentation was most important, 65 percent said cost and 52 percent said customer expectations and merely 16 percent said calories were a big factor.

The researchers found that portions are two to four times bigger than the government's recommended serving sizes, and though most chefs think they are serving regular-sized portions when in fact four out of five give more than the recommended 2 ounces for pasta and 3 ounces for strip steak.

What is more in order to deal with competing restaurants they served more pasta and steak and used bigger plates.

Many restaurants and food chains are not prepared to discuss portion sizes and it remains a sensitive issue with some organisations priding themselves on the size of their portions.

The survey also shows that veteran chefs tend to serve smaller portions, and younger chefs larger ones, possibly because older chefs were trained when portions were smaller.

According to market research a typical restaurant meal has at least 60% more calories than the average meal made at home.

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