Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chain reaction

Just got the new issue of The Mag this morning, and one of the things that jumped out at me in terms of nutrition was some of the restaurant information. Recently we had to eat out a couple of days in a row and while I don't like to do that too much, it's an unavoidable fact of life.

My biggest concern about eating out at chain restaurants is the lack of nutritional information on the menu. Some restaurants have some caloric information. For instance, we went to TGI Friday's on Saturday, and some select dishes were I believe under 600 calories. Of course, that list was limited to three entrees out of their entire menu, which was disappointing. I ordered one of those entrees, some sort of Asian-style chicken, even though I didn't feel like chicken.... or Asian-style food. It's like a no-win situation, though. I would rather have ordered that and known my calories were under a certain amount than order something else and not know just how many calories I consumed.

When I dropped my weight, I was vigilant about counting my calories. At first, my trainer had me on a meal plan that allowed for three straight days of 1,700 calories or so, and then every fourth day at 2,800. When I got under 220, he suggested I try to maintain my daily caloric intake to 1,800. It wasn't difficult in 2008 to keep it there but for some reason it's been more difficult, or should I say challenging, in 2009.

Anyway, it can be dangerous if I'm at a restaurant and order some random dish only to find out later that it had more than 1,000 calories.

Now, I usually consult which is an excellent resource, not just for restaurants but also for packaged foods and general nutritional information in your average run-of-the-mill foods. That's helpful to me when we go to places like Friday's, when we're just out and about and looking for somewhere to stop. But I can access it with my phone, and not everybody can. And even then, is not at all complete when it comes to chains. Just depends on whether the restaurant is willing to share their nutritional info since some restaurants have all their info there and others have hardly any.

Sticking to salads might seem like a good idea but that's a wolf in sheep's clothing. For instance, the Chicken Caesar Salad at Macaroni Grill has 870 calories, 2,270mg sodium and 67g fat. That's not at all a healthy alternative. That's almost half of my calories and way too many sodium and fat grams.

I've often thought it would be great if restaurants were required to post the nutritional info of all their entrees on their menus, so that way you could have that info handy. But that might not be beneficial to restaurants in the long run so it probably won't happen anytime soon. It doesn't help that The Mag said, accoprding to a study, 99.9 percent of people do not look at nutritional information at chain restuarants when available.

One of the dishes that The Mag warns us about this month is the Grilled Cheese BLT with Fries, from Applebee's. It has a whopping 1,770 calories. That's just preposterous.

The best way I've found to avoid getting caught in bad situations is to familiarize myself with restaurant menus and plan ahead as much as possible. If I know that we're going somewhere like Olive Garden or some other potentially disastrous place like that (great food, not a lot of healthy choices), I'll adjust my caloric intake accordingly. Also, I can research ahead of time and decide on a few things that would be good options.

But I have to say the worst thing about eating out is that I'm usually the only one eating light. Usually those around me have something that looks really good, like burgers or some unhealthy breakfast dish or something, and I'm there with something I may or may not have really felt like. It's hard to not to keep picking at my daughters' fries since I know they won't finish them all. I carry gum sometimes and sometimes I'll just pop some in my mouth when I'm done, to keep from picking at my daughters' plates. Yeah, sometimes discipline can be a challenge.

I prefer to eat by my own hand, by cooking my own food. That's easily the best way to control your caloric intake. Take the power away from restaurants and control your own caloric intake. Last night, for instance, I made a chicken dish with peppers, onions and balsamic vinegar with sides of red onion rice and a Greek salad, and all of it was tasty.

So Friday's had the power over the weekend and I had the power yesterday. I just try to keep more of the power and control myself. It's all I can do.

1 comment:

Willoughby said...

I gotta be honest, we go out to eat so infrequently that I never pay attention to nutritional info. if it's available. If we did eat at restaurants more often, it would definitely be of concern.

I'm with you, I prefer to eat at home so I know what I'm getting. It is nice if someone else cooks it once in a while, though!!