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by DietWrite,'s Diet and Fitness News Reporter

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Choosing the healthiest item on a menu may not be as easy as it seems, as a study shows that most people are unable to identify which restaurant dishes are the most diet-friendly options.

In a country where about two-thirds of adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents are considered to be overweight or obese, the restaurant chain industry has been facing increasing criticism for contributing to this problem and not doing anything to alleviate it.

A poll conducted by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy found that 84% of 523 people surveyed support requiring chain restaurants to post nutritional information.

The poll also found that an overwhelming number of people were unable to identify which menu items from popular chains had the fewest calories, salt, and fat.

Respondents were asked which dish was lowest at Denny’s, Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, and McDonald’s.

The first question had respondents choose between a ham and cheddar omelet, country fried steak and eggs, three slices French toast with syrup and margarine, or three pancakes at Denny’s.

The answer? Take the quiz yourself and find out!

None of the people in the poll answered all four questions correctly, and 68 percent failed all of them. Five percent answered half correctly. Less than 1 percent answered three of four questions correctly. According to the CCPHA, scores were equally low regardless of education and income levels.

Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo noted the that only 8 percent of poll respondents said they couldn’t determine the best nutritional choice, “The implication is that consumers think they are making healthy decisions when in fact they are wrong, dead wrong.”

The CCPHA believes that it is very difficult for restaurant patrons to order diet-friendly meals, despite healthier menu additions.

“I have a doctorate in public health, and I failed this quiz,” Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the CCPHA, said. “Common sense does not help ... who would think that a large chocolate shake at McDonald’s has more calories than two Big Macs?”

Up for the challenge? Take the poll here and let us know how you did and what you think

>> More info

@ 12:04pm ET on April 19, 2007
My one issue with this test is that they don't give the menu descriptions with the items. I don't eat at most of these restaurants (Macaroni Grill doesn't even exist in Canada), so "Pasta Classico" means nothing to me. You can get a lot of clues by reading the description as well as the name.

@ 2:04pm ET on April 19, 2007
I thought I was pretty savvy when it came to food. Guess I was wrong. I got one out of four correct. I thought the chicken fried steak would have had the most calories. I have always heard that is one of the worst things you can eat.

I was at Maccoroni Grill last week and they actually have quite a few healthy options. They even put a symbol by the sensible meals. Like roasted samon with asparagus. My problems comes in when I get there I do not want the healthy choices all of the time. I did wind up with the scallop salad that was good. I am not sure about the dressing on it though. It seemed like it had a lot of sugar in it.

@ 4:54pm ET on April 20, 2007
ugh, I phail

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