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That fancy lobster you're splurging on might be an impostor

Justina Huddleston is an editor and the head writer for TDmonthly Magazine. She has been a freelance writer for several years, though her real passion is cooking. You can see the recipes she creates on her vegan food blog, A Life of Litt...

Almost 35 percent of lobster served in restaurants isn't actually lobster at all

I don't know about you, but in my family, ordering anything with lobster in it at a restaurant is a big deal. It's a splurge, reserved for special occasions, and we expect to get what we pay for.

That's why it's so disheartening to hear that the decadent lobster dishes people are ordering may not have any lobster in them at all. Inside Edition recently investigated 28 restaurants around the country and found that 35 percent of the dishes they sampled falsely claimed to contain lobster.

More: The salmon you're buying could be mislabeled — here's what you need to know

That's huge — 1 in 3 times, your lobster mac and cheese, lobster bisque and even lobster roll probably contains something other than lobster.

One of the most common impersonators was whiting, an inexpensive white fish. It can be mixed in with real lobster and used in things like chowder, pasta and lobster rolls. That may help explain why a $15 lobster roll tastes amazing compared to a bargain-priced roll that leaves something to be desired.

Another common substitute? Langostino, also known as "squat lobster," which is actually a relative of the hermit crab and not a lobster at all. In one of the "lobster" bisques Inside Edition tested, the only meat used was langostino, while Red Lobster's lobster bisque contained a combination of Maine lobster and langostino.

More: What makes a great lobster roll?

Langostino is a step up from whiting, since it does have a sweet and succulent flavor that's similar to real lobster. But if you're paying a premium for the real thing, you should be able to expect just that in your food. Honestly, since restaurants charge so much for items containing lobster and you have a 1-in-3 chance of getting swindled, you might be better off choosing something else.

To get the most bang for your buck, look for shellfish options that still taste indulgent but don't suffer from the same types of fraud as lobster does. Mussels are a sustainable and tasty choice, Alaskan trap-caught shrimp are similar in texture and have a sweet, briny flavor like lobster, and scallops are another sustainable choice that has a sweet seafood flavor and unbeatable, luxurious texture.

Best of all? These alternatives cost way less than lobster, and you don't have to worry about having the wool pulled over your eyes when you order your meal. Or if you're feeling really ambitious, you can always purchase your own whole lobster and prepare it at home.

More: 9 Basic food products that aren't what they claim

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