HOUSTON -

Major restaurant chains are starting to post calorie counts for customers even though a federal law requiring the practice does not take effect until sometime next year.

Boston researchers found independent and "mom and pop" restaurants are serving up hefty calories, even though they will not be required to post their nutritional information.

Researchers with the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging looked at the five most popular dishes at the nine most common restaurant types, including restaurants that serve Chinese, Italian, Mexican and Thai foods.

While nothing beats convenience when it comes to eating out, researchers found that nearly three-quarters of the meals tested contained more than half of the recommended daily caloric intake. Some meals are packed with enough calories for an entire day.

"Honestly I wasn't surprised… really you've got to be conscious of what you're choosing regardless of where you eat," said Memorial Hermann dietitian Penny Wilson after reading the study.

Just how bad are some of our favorite foods? A plate of pork fried rice has 1,377 calories, while a half a rack of ribs has 2,445 calories.

"When we go out, we don't have just ribs,” said Wilson. “We get the potato salad, the green beans that are typically cooked with ham or bacon, the corn, the drinks, all of the things on the side and all of those things keep adding more and more calories to what we're eating."

Many people that Local 2 spoke with said they don't pay much attention to the calorie listings on menus, instead, they prefer to watch their portions.

“I get two or three meals out of each meal, so maybe that helps me not paying attention to the calorie count," said Jeff Bazemore about bringing home leftovers.

"I try to use portion control,” said Gustavo Guevara. “That's my way to count calories. I try to behave on the portion control."

Wilson said watching what and how much you eat is more than about your waistline.

"Gaining weight affects every function of your body from your heart, diabetes, high blood pressure, even your joints," she said.