Archive for the tag - restaurant

Study: Only 4% of Restaurant Main Dishes Meet Government Guidelines.

Planning on eating out a restaurant? According to a new study, there’s a very good chance that your meal will exceed federal nutrition recommendations for calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium.

The 18-month study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and conducted by the Rand Corp., examined nearly 31,000 menu items from 245 top U.S. restaurant chains. The findings were abysmal.

According to Helen Wu, the lead researcher:

If you’re eating out tonight, your chances of finding an entree that’s truly healthy are painfully low. The restaurant industry needs to make big changes to be part of the solution.

Just how low are your chances of eating healthy? Based on the collected data, only 4% of main dishes fell within the federal guidelines. In other words, 96% of main dishes have more calories, fat, saturated fat and/or sodium than advised by the government.

The USDA recommends that main dishes not exceed the following guidelines:

  • 667 calories
  • 35% of calories from fat
  • 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • 767 mg sodium

According to researchers, surveyed appetizers and main dishes averaged 813 calories and 674 calories respectively. Moreover, the main dishes at family-style restaurants were significantly less healthy than fast food chains. Their main dishes, probably because of portion size, averaged in with 271 additional calories, 435 additional milligrams of sodium and 16 more grams of fat than fast food alternatives.

Clearly, dining out can be a real challenge for health-conscious individuals – and, though restaurants have made some changes (like listing calories on some menus) – more needs to be done.

I always recommend researching a restaurant before deciding where to eat, avoiding menu items with words like crispy, creamed, buttered, cheesy, pan-fiend or breaded, drinking lots of water and sharing desserts. It’s also a good idea to eat an apple before going out to eat. The apple, which is rich in filling fiber, will help curb your appetite before chowing down on unhealthy restaurant food.

For more information, check out my 9 tips to eat healthy at a restaurant or the top 12 words to avoid on restaurant menus.

Did a National Restaurant Chain Just Try to Kill Me?

Don't be fooled: This quesadilla is a deadly weapon.

Yesterday, after my gymnastics class, I went with a friend to a nameless restaurant that happens to be part of a national chain. As someone who doesn’t eat at chains (Subway sandwiches excepted), I was a bit reluctant – but decided to give it a try.

We ordered chips and guacamole for an appetizer, and my main meal was a chipotle chicken quesadilla. It sounded innocent enough. When the meal arrived, I realized that the chicken had been deep-fried and smothered in cheese, the tortilla was coated in a thick layer of butter and that the meal was served with ranch dressing. It was essentially fat on top of fat with a side of fat.

I felt like I was on a segment of “Eat This, Not That” and I was eating the “not that.”

After consuming the quesadilla in its entirety (truth be told, it was fairly small), my body felt sick. I felt bloated and groggy. So, I decided to look up the nutrition information to see how unhealthy my meal really was. Though the exact quesadilla’s nutrition information isn’t on the restaurant’s site, similar quesadillas weigh in at nearly 1,500 calories and have more than 100 grams of fat – 40 of which are unsaturated. Not to mention 3,000 mg of sodium.

To put that into context, most Americans are told to target about 56 – 78 grams of fat per day – with about 16 grams (or less) coming from saturated fats. And we’re advised to consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium. In other words, my meal contained almost two days worth of total fat, more than two days worth of saturated fat, and more than a day’s worth of sodium. I might as well have eaten a stick of butter.

Here’s the thing: While buttering the tortilla, frying the chicken, covering the quesadilla with cheese and serving it with ranch dressing may improve the taste slightly, all of those things impact the nutrition of the meal massively – and in a negative way. If cooking at home, I would have used a bit of olive oil on the tortilla, grilled the chicken, used only a dash of cheese and served it with a side of fresh salsa. It still would have been delicious – and it wouldn’t have made my body feel sick for having eaten it.

In hindsight, I could have paid more attention to key words in the menu’s description like “loaded”, “crispy” and “battered” – as they are red flags for fat and calories. But, while there are likely healthier options on the menu, I think I’ll be cooking at home for the foreseeable future.

P.S. I forgot to mention that our chips and guacamole appetizer had 1400 calories, 84 grams of total fat, 15 grams of saturated fat and 2,250 grams of sodium. That’s about a full day’s worth in every category. Bon appetit.

9 Tips to Eat Healthy at Restaurants!

He’s ready to take your order…

It’s difficult enough to eat healthy at home – even when you are in control of the ingredients being used. But dining out at a restaurant presents a real challenge for health-minded individuals. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, or really just maintain a healthy lifestyle, try making use of these top 9 tips:

  1. Play on your own turf. Not all restaurants are created equal. Opt for restaurants that value nutrition, and browse the menu online before you go. Ensure that there are healthy options that appeal to you.
  2. Start smart. Fried calamari and potato skins might be tempting, put go for a soup or salad instead. If ordering soup, select a tomato or stock-based option (rather than one made with cream). For salad, order dressing on the side. A great tip for eating salad: Dip your fork in the dressing, and then scoop up some salad. It’s just enough dressing to add flavor without overloading your meal with calories and fat.
  3. Learn the language. Unhealthy options are often disguised. Words like “crispy,” “alfredo,” “breaded,” and “pan-fried” generally indicate unhealthy choices. Look for words like “grilled,” “steamed” and “baked.”
  4. Speak up. Eating healthy may require asking for substitutes. The chicken sandwich may come with a pile of fries, but you can ask for vegetables or salad as a substitute instead. You can ask for fried foods to be grilled, and dressings or sauces on the side.
  5. Don’t drink your calories. Fruity drinks and soda are packed with calories. Water is always the best option. If you’re going for an alcoholic drink, opt for wine or light beer.
  6. Speaking of water, drink lots of it. Water has a slew of great benefits. It boosts your metabolism, curbs your appetite and slows down your eating. Your stomach is full 15 minutes before your brain realizes it – so water does wonders to prevent overeating.
  7. Know your meat. It’s always best to select leans meats. Prime rib is loaded with fat (in fact, it’s one of my top 5 unhealthiest holiday foods); filet mignon or flank steak are much healthier. Poultry is a great option, but order it without skin (the skin adds a quick 8 grams of fat). Order breast meat (instead of thigh meat) whenever possible.
  8. Look for healthy selections. Restaurants often have a section of their menu to showcase healthy options. Other restaurants designate certain menu options with a symbol if they meet healthy guidelines. Ask your waiter or waitress for guidance.
  9. Share a happy ending. Sorbet or non-dairy gelato are much healthier than that triple chocolate layer cake with vanilla ice cream. And there’s no harm in sharing a dessert with your dinner partner. Splitting the calories halves the damage!

Do you have any tips for eating healthy at restaurants? I’d love to hear ’em. Let us know in the comments below!

And for more nutrition information, download my Eating For Fitness ebook today!