Deceptive Restaurant Stats...Eater Beware!
If you're not already familiar with this story that made headlines around the nation several weeks ago, here's the scoop. Eight TV stations in different cities sent their reporters on an assignment to order about twenty so-called "healthy" meal options at Applebee's, Macaroni Grill, Chili's, Cheesecake Factory, etc. The food samples were then sent to our very own Boise, Idaho to be tested by E.P.A certified Analytical Laboratories to test the nutritional value. The results were SHOCKING, to say the least! As you can read in the article, many of the samples had way more calories, fat, and sodium stats than were listed on the menu. The worst offender? The Pollo Magro "Skinny Chicken" sample from Macaroni Grill. It contained more than just the 6 grams of fat and 500 calories listed on the website's nutritional page. Instead, it actually had over 1,000 calories and 50 grams of fat! Now that's no skinny chicken! Click here for the whole story and be sure to watch the interview with the dietician (who is quite the character) to see and listen to her reaction.
This news is a bit frustrating since many of us are ordering off the "healthy" side of the menu thinking we're doing the right thing. Instead, we can't know what we're getting since it all depends on whether the cook followed the exact recipe or used the exact ingredients. When you think about it, if you're a cook in a busy restaurant trying to bang out as many orders as possible, you're probably not measuring everything out according to the original recipe. So rather than throw things at the chef, here's some valuable info to take away from this if you're really trying to eat smart while still eating out!
You can't fully trust restaurant nutritionals you read on websites and menus. There are too many unknowns. Know this going in!
Pay very close attention to your food. If the portion seems way too large to have the calories listed, chances are it has more calories. If it's supposed to have 6 grams of fat and appears like it's swimming in oil - it doesn't contain 6 grams of fat!
You can have more control over your meal without appearing tacky. Order things grilled or steamed with sauce on the side.
Ordering items listed as "healthy," "light," or "diet" (still hate that word!) is still probably better than ordering standard menu options. If the stats are that off on the lighter dishes, imagine how far off the regular stuff could be!
Consider yourselves warned! Happy Dining!