While dishing out delicious food, chefs can do their bit to reduce obesity rates by making low calorie meals.
In the survey, 72 percent of the 432 respondents said they could trim off 10 percent of the calories in meals without customers noticing differences in taste, and 21 percent said they could trim off at least 25 percent of the calories.
"Reducing intake by as little as 100 calories per day can amount to a significant weight loss over a year," said Liane Roe, research nutritionist in Penn State's Department of Nutritional Sciences.
Roe and co-author Barbara Rolls 7 percent chefs were not at all familiar with the calorie content of the meals they served and 49 percent were somewhat familiar.
Chefs in the study were much more willing to create new reduced-calorie foods rather than modifying existing meals. When asked about the most effective method for reducing calories in meals, chefs favored reducing portion sizes over "reducing calories per bite"-reducing fat or adding fruits or vegetables.
However, when asked to pick specific strategies for reducing calories for two popular meals-beef stew and apple pie a la mode, chefs most often chose methods of reducing fat.
Rolls has shown in past research that people typically eat the same volume of food over a one- or two-day period. By adding water-rich foods-fruits and vegetables-that are low in calories per bite, people can maintain the total weight they eat while reducing the calorie count.
"It's important to figure out how to reduce the calorie content in meals in a way that keeps food just as enjoyable at the same price. We're all responsible for what we eat, but restaurants can make it easier for us," said Rolls.
The study appeared in Obesity.