Blog Think you’re making healthy choices at restaurants? Think again.


Think you’re making healthy choices at restaurants? Think again.

  • by jHodgson
  • November 30, 2012

Most of us know the basics about healthier menu options – choose grilled entrees instead of fried, request sauces and dressings on the side, and always pay attention to portion sizes. Even in our attempt to control our calorie intake by choosing lighter dishes, restaurants still find a way to sneak more calories into our “healthy” picks. Maridel Reyes with Health magazine shares a  few helpful restaurant tips to keep in mind:


1. Go easy on the olive oil. We know that olive oil is a heart-healthy fat, but it is still a fat. By dunking two pieces of bread into olive oil as you read through the menu could have you consuming about 380 calories – almost as many calories as most of us should have in an entire meal! Suggestion: Add balsamic vinegar to cut the fat and amp up the flavor. Try drizzling the mixture onto your bread with a fork instead of dunking.


2. Small plates can pack lots of calories. With the recent popularity of tappas restaurants, Americans have enjoyed ordering several small dishes instead of one main meal. However, certain favorites such as patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy mayonnaise) can cost you as much as 640 calories in one small plate! Suggestion: Look for dishes that are grilled instead of fried, and balance out your protein-heavy dishes with plates that feature veggies as the main ingredient.


3. Chef’s love to secretly boost the flavor by adding more fat. Chef’s have one main goal – to make your food taste good. The best way of accomplishing this task? Add more fat and salt. Suggestion: Ask away! Even if the description of the menu item seems pretty straight forward, it doesn’t hurt to ask the server if the recipe contains any cream or butter.


4. Keep your veggies plain. Steamed vegetables seem like an obvious healthy choice, but chefs often decide to finish them in the saute pan…with butter. Another craze with salads and veggies has been to give ’em a quick toss with bacon drippings, which might not be mentioned on the menu. Suggestion: Order your veggies “dry.” It lets the chef know that you don’t mess around when it comes to your veggies.


5. Looks can be deceiving. Putting a hefty mound of food on an over-sized plate is a sneaky way to trick your mind into thinking you’ve eaten a much smaller quantity. Suggestion: Pay attention to the portion sizes. Reyes suggests that a protein source should be about the size of your smart phone, and a serving of carbs should be about the size of your fist.


6. When it comes to calories – go for the red meat. We’ve all heard the warnings that consuming too much steak can do a number on our hearts, but not all steaks are equal. Lean cuts such as fillet and sirloin are often served in 5 oz portions, which can help save you some calories if you choose these over the typical 8 oz serving of salmon. Suggestion: Check if the steak is served with a high-fat sauce, if so, ask for some grilled lemon instead to boost the flavor.


7. Be wary of salads. It’s pretty obvious that Caesar and Cobb salads contain a lot of calories, but other salads can be sneaky too! For example, a mixed greens salad containing goat cheese, sliced pears, and candied walnuts can pack about 500 calories. Suggestion: Create your own salad. Ask your server if you can swap out some of the calorie-dense ingredients with lighter ones.


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