I just read a study that evaluated the calorie content in foods in small and local restaurants that are exempt from listing calories on their menus under the new laws. I wasn’t surprised to find that, just like in large restaurant chains, there are a lot of calories in these restaurant foods.
The researchers took the most frequently ordered foods from 9 most common restaurant categories (including Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Thai, and American). Although we know that restaurant meals contain more calories than what we cook at home, I was surprised by how many calories they contained – an average or 1327 calories! YIKES! That is almost an entire day of calories for me in ONE average restaurant meal!
Remember, these were considered “the most ordered meals” which means the most popular ones. If these are the meals most people are ordering, it’s no surprise that Americans keep expanding. Examples include: beef tacos, chicken fajitas, cheeseburger, 1/2 rack ribs, Kung pao chicken, Lasagna, and Chicken pad Thai. This didn’t include “healthier” options because they aren’t ordered as often.
Once again, it looks like the food industry is making us fat and unhealthy. What can you do to fight this trend? Here are some ideas:
- Become an informed consumer. Research calorie information before you go to a restaurant. You can use online tools like MyFitnessPal.com or SparkPeople.com to find estimates of calorie information. An estimate is just that – a good guess. You don’t have to be perfect, but you can estimate – and always take the higher end of the estimate.
- Talk to the waiter about how the food is prepared and the size of the portion. Often, they can make suggestions on healthier options and things that may not even be on the menu.
- Split a meal. Restaurant portions are normally anywhere from 2 to 5 or more portions of what you should be eating. Splitting a meal with one or two people can help bring the portions down to size.
- Take extra home. Plan on having leftovers and taking at least half or 2/3 of the meal home to eat later.
- Order an appetizer and a salad as your meal. Appetizers can be the right size for a meal. An appetizer and a side salad or vegetable can make for a satisfying meal.