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Gulp. Restaurants reveal all. And it's not pretty.

You can dig into that dulce de leche cheesecake, but you can no longer hide. With a California law now mandating that chain restaurants provide customers with nutrition information, consumers are coming face to face with the calorie, fat and sodium content of their favorite restaurant dishes — numbers they've only been able to guess at until now.

That dulce de leche delight from the Cheesecake Factory? 1,010 calories per slice. A surely more prudent fajita fiesta pollo salad at Red Robin? A cool 1,000 calories with 62 grams of total fat and 1,408 milligrams of sodium — almost the recommended day's worth of salt for a middle-aged person.

We went to restaurants to see what the new law is revealing about the food (and, yes, of course, so we could shriek at the numbers). And we did some digging to see what this new age of restaurant transparency may mean.

The numbers are eye-opening, for sure: Who would imagine a big slice of pie in many cases could do less calorie damage than a salad — a virtuous salad?

But it's still an open question how we will respond to the nutrition news — as our interviews with diners and a survey of the science revealed. 

Photo: A meal from a national chain restaurant of grilled chicken sandwich (880 calories), salted French fries (425 calories) and a side of cole slaw (260 calories). Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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Too right, Natalie. Liquid calories don't count either. BTW The Chinese eating traditional food didn't count calories and were slim. Do you know UCL professor Steve Jones who said that weight problems came in with bathroom scales? Others - including Margaret McLaghan - said it came in with margarine and low-fat foods.

I just try and avert my eyes. If you aren't aware of the calories, it doesn't count, right?


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.