March 5, 2008

You "Ask", I Answer: Healthy Eating At Restaurants

[In response to your posting about chain restaurants not providing nutrition information:] So eat at home where you can control what goes in the food.

If you eat out, indulge.

Live life!

Don't make enjoying a meal out a science.

-- Sly

Via the blog

As regular readers of this blog know, I am a huge proponent of enjoying food and always experiencing eating as a pleasurable activity, not a punishable one.

I don't expect -- or want -- anyone to bring a calculator and scale to every meal they eat.

However, the point of that post -- and what brought up sufficient frustration in me to want to write about it -- was that consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing at a restaurant.

Obviously, a triple bacon cheeseburger with onion rings will never be confused for a "low calorie" or "heart healthy" meal.

However, a lot of the chain restaurants I mentioned (Olive Garden, TGI Friday's, Applebee's) offer entrees that sound healthy and are anything but.

Entree salads often contain as much saturated fat and sodium as a hamburger due to the sheer volume of dressing dumped on them.

My call for these restaurants to offer nutrition information isn't for people to obsess over numbers, but to have information available to help them make the right choices.

A "little appetizer" might be viewed differently when you discover it provides 900 calories.

When you go to a restaurant, I'm sure you like to know the cost of each dish before ordering. Wouldn't you hate to see a menu with no prices on it, only to get an expensive bill at the end?

If you're on a "financial diet", it helps you to know that the fish entree you're eyeing is $15 more expensive than the chicken entree you're also thinking of getting.

Apply the same principles to someone on a nutritional diet or eating plan.

Also, it's one thing to "indulge" if you eat out once every two weeks and follow generally healthy eating patterns. If dinner at a restaurant is the norm, though, giving yourself permission to indulge every time isn't such a good idea.


jamie said...

I agree. We should definitely have the right to know what's in the foods we're getting at a restaurant. For so many years I thought I was making a great healthy choice always ordering a big Caesar salad as my meal, only to find later that the amount of fat in the salad is equal to or more than many of the entrees I never would have even thought to eat.

On another note, I'd like to know your opinion on taking nutrient supplements. We just read about them in my Nutrition class and it seems that half the experts think they are a good thing to use to get all your RDA of vitamins, and the other half think they are not good and even dangerous. What do you think? If we're not getting are full amount of vitamins from food, is taking a multi vitamin going to make up for that?

Anonymous said...

I was glad to see your comparison of calories to a "financial diet." I've found that that exact frame of mind helps control the amount of food one consumes during the day. It promotes "thinking before ordering" and so far has helped enormously in balancing what I'll call the "taste/calories tradeoff"-- how much taste am I getting for those calories?
Basically: what am I getting out of eating that supposedly healthy "grilled chicken sandwich" when you find out it has cheese, the bun is smothered in butter before it comes to your plate, and it has "a secret sauce" that turns out to be honey mustard? Not much- you can't even feel the cheese!
Am I really 'spending" my daily allotment of calories for that?