Who was watching Applebee's Weight Watcher meals?

One of the greatest challenges Weight Watchers members face is dining out.

Few restaurants pay more than lip service to low-cal foods, preferring to hustle the high-profit fried menu. When Applebee's introduced a menu of meals designed with the weight watcher in mind, their problem was solved. At least, they thought so.

However, last year Scripps News hired a food lab to test the calorie count of foods from Applebee's, Chili's, Taco Bell and others. It found that some dishes contained up to double the calories and eight times the fat claimed on the menu.

Shortly thereafter, law firms from around the country began filing suits against Applebee's parent company, DIneEquity Inc. (NYSE:DIN) and Weight Watchers on behalf of all those unfortunate overweight people who had eaten from this menu in the past four years.

No doubt, the 200 extra calories caused them more emotional anguish than the boxes of Twinkies, bags of Kettle-style chips, or pony kegs of Miller Light they devoured on their climb up the scale.

Applebee's responded by explaining that, because its menu is hand-prepared, absolute uniformity is unrealistic. It also claimed the sampling was too small.

Having peeked into restaurant kitchens, I've also noted that some cooks had a habit of buttering up entrees. If you ever wondered why restaurant food tastes better than the same meal prepared at home, try slathering on some butter the next time just before serving.

The latest Applebee's victim is Pamela Curry of Ohio. After being served a Cajun Lime Tilapia that exceeded the stated calories, she and her attorney filed a class action suit. Curry's dish contained 14 grams of fat more than it should.

Fourteen grams of fat equals 126 calories. One pound of body fat represents 3,500 calories. Walking a dog for half an hour burns 151 calories.

The real victim here, IMHO, is Weight Watchers. It didn't prepare the food, and shouldn't have been expected to police the menu. Unfortunately, if it has deep, albeit tight, pockets, and it will appear on many a class action menu.
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