Did you know that for every dollar we Americans spend on food, about 50 cents go to grub consumed outside the home? That’s right, half of our eating money is spent in restaurants, fast food chains, coffee shops, airport and mall food courts, etc…
So even if you are vigilant at the supermarket about the foods you buy, eating out a lot can destroy your diet. The problems:
1. Much less information about what you are eating. There are usually no nutrition labels with detailed ingredient lists and nutrient breakdowns. True, more and more chains provide calorie counts for their meals, but the calories tell only a small part of the overall story. Sodium content, for example, does not appear in many cases.
2. Eating out is psychologically considered a treat, so many folks pay less attention to the nutritional aspects of their order. But this isn’t 1957 where a family would go out to celebrate a birthday at McDonald’s once in a few months. We’re talking about daily visits to fast food joints and other fine dining establishments. When you’re treated daily, it’s no longer a treat.
3. Some of the dishes served come with surprisingly huge amount of calories, fats, salt, and sugars. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has decided to award the 2010 XTREME EATING AWARDS to the top performers:
- California Pizza Kitchen Tostada Pizza with Grilled Steak. With 1,680 calories,1½ day’s worth (32 grams) of saturated fat, and more than 2 day’s worth (3,300 mg) of sodium ordering the single-serve pizza is like eating a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza topped with six Taco Bell Crunchy beef Tacos.
- P.F. Chang’s Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo. You could eat 10 egg Rolls and not top the 1,820 calories in this dish. “They fry these noodles to make them hard and crunchy, while you end up soft and flabby,” says CSPI nutrition director Bonnie Liebman. If this noodle dish does indeed have the 7,690 milligrams of sodium to which the chain confesses, that would be about three teaspoons of salt—a five-day supply.
- The Cheesecake Factory Pasta Carbonara with Chicken. When CSPI first dubbed fettuccine Alfredo a “heart attack on a plate,” it was because CSPI’s lab tests found it had 1,500 calories and 48 grams of saturated fat. But, according to the company, this dish—with four cups of white-flour pasta, smoked bacon, chicken, and Parmesan cream and butter sauce—has 2,500 calories and more saturated fat (85 grams) than one should consume in four days. It’s like eating the chain’s onion-ring-topped Grilled Rib-Eye Steak with French Fries, and a slice of Tiramisu Cheesecake.
- more at CSPI…
What to do at the restaurant:
Try to figure out how many meals a week you spend outside the home. You’ll quickly realize that you need to keep your nutritional guard up when ordering your breakfast / lunch / dinner. Ask the waiter or proprietor for the healthy options. Dressings for entrees and salads can be provided on the side not drowning the food. Dishes can be shared. And drinks can be plain old water. Dessert is not a must. A good espresso should suffice…