Despite the poor economy, people are still going out to eat at restaurants and buying fast food meals. Sure – who doesn’t like to go out to eat at a restaurant now and then? And with people’s busy lives, it’s inevitable that you’re going to zoom through a drive-thru window to pick up something quick at one point or another. For those who like the convenience of eating out but also are trying to eat healthy, choosing a healthier option isn’t as easy as you would think.
The Meals You Thought Were Healthy
So you’re looking through the menu and you’re trying to be “good” so you decide on a salad. That’s a healthy choice, right? Guess again. Most salads offered at restaurants come with creamy high calorie dressings filled with fat. For example, if you think you are making the healthy choice by ordering a Chicken Caesar salad, think again! An entrée size Chicken Caesar salad usually contains between 500 and 900 calories and 40 to 60 grams of fat! This mostly comes from the dressing, cheese, and croutons. If you are trying to order a healthy salad, ditch the croutons and cheese and stick with a lighter dressing such as olive oil and vinegar or light balsamic vinaigrette.
Craving a hamburger but decide to go for a turkey burger instead? You’re in for another surprise. Turkey burgers actually contain just as much fat as beef burgers. In addition, often times turkey burgers are actually higher in calories than beef burgers and usually contain about 800 calories and 40 grams of fat! Meanwhile, beef burgers are higher in protein and contain the same amount of carbohydrates. Not to mention many people prefer the taste of a beef burger over a turkey burger; but that’s your own personal choice!
Here are some examples of nutritional facts from some popular restaurants. You may be surprised what you learn.
Tendergrill Garden Salad with Light Italian Dressing:
Notice that the salad is actually more calories than the whopper JR! Replace the Light Italian dressing with ranch dressing and you have yourself a 500 calorie salad!
|¼ lb Single Burger|
|Premium Fish Fillet Sandwich|
When comparing the Wendy’s hamburger to the so called “healthy” fish sandwich and salad, the hamburger is actually the healthiest selection! A quarterpound hamburger contains the least amount of calories, fat, and carbs while also being high in protein. The salad is actually the least healthy selection compared to the fish sandwich and the hamburger. A lot of people make the common mistake of thinking a fish sandwich or salad is the healthiest choice at a fast food restaurant when often times they are high in calories, fat, and carbs.
|Chopped Salad with Grilled Salmon and Balsamic Vinaigrette|
|Plain Cheese Brick Oven Pizza (One Slice)|
Even though pizza is higher in carbohydrates, you could still have 2-1/2 large slices of pizza and consume fewer calories than the chopped salad with light dressing!
|Panko Crusted Haddock|
|Crispy Honey Mustard Salad|
When you see a meal with the word “haddock” in its name, most people automatically think it’s healthy. Be careful. The Panko Crusted Haddock is loaded with calories, fat, and carbohydrates. In fact, it is the least healthy meal listed above. You’re better off ordering the baked haddock which only contains 540 calories, 32g of fat, and 14g of carbohydrates. Not too far behind is the salad, are you surprised? The Crispy Honey Mustard Salad contains over 1,000 calories and has the highest amount of fat compared to the other two meals. Surprisingly, the Steakburger is the healthiest choice compared to the salad and fish meal. It has the least amount of calories, fat, and carbohydrates.
Restaurant’s Hidden Secrets
Restaurants will do everything they can to make their food taste good; even if that means adding a little extra oil and butter. With that said, even if you order something grilled, its usually cooked on a flat top grill in which it is cooked in grease or oil. According to food safety expert Jeff Nelken, “often times breakfast cooks save the bacon fat and use it on the grill to make lunch and dinner foods”. Keep in mind that oil has approximately 120 calories per tablespoon so when you order grilled or steamed vegetables from a restaurant, chances are they are higher in calories than you think because they have been marinated in oil. Since fat and oil help preserve cooked foods, a lot of the time busy restaurants will partially cook their meats and then coat them in oil until they are ready to be finished.
While oil is one hidden ingredient, butter is another. Pureed soups, vegetables, and potatoes are always full of butter and cream to make them tasty and smooth. In addition, most sauces contain some sort of butter or cream to add to the taste.
How to Be Proactive When Eating Out
The good news is that with some forethought before you go out to eat, or for even for general information purposes, you can view menu items, nutritional value, and many times, gluten free options by visiting a restaurant’s web site. Most major chain restaurants, including fast food restaurants, provide detailed nutritional information. A locally owned restaurant may not have this information, or sometimes even a web site. If all else fails, go with what you know! Broiled is better than baked; baked is better than fried; and ask for dressing, butter or sauces on the side.