Extreme Restaurant Meals – Do you know what you’re eating?

Even if you’re trying to eat healthy and cook at home, sometimes you’re going to have to eat out.  Whether it’s getting together with friends, a special dinner with your spouse or grabbing something because it’s been a hectic day, there are an infinite number of food choices to make.  You may have noticed some restaurants have begun to add calorie counts and other nutritional information to their menu, which can be very helpful in trying to make healthy choices.

Fast food giant, McDonalds, been posting calorie counts for menu items in 2012 and even created an app for customers to look up nutrition information on their offerings.  Other chain restaurants like Panera Bread also post calorie counts on their menus. But, many other popular chains have not stepped up and in fact, lobbied against legislation that would require them to reveal nutritional information.

This year, just before the deadline for that legislation, lobbyists for pizza chains (led by Domino’s), convenience stores, and supermarkets convinced the Trump administration not just to delay but to reopen the rules to weaken them, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).  When you see the calorie counts on some of CSPI’s 2017 Xtreme Eating Award winners, you might understand why the restaurant chains want to keep this information under wraps.

Cheesecake Factory is known for their large portions, and their Pasta Napoletana is no exception.  It’s also got a huge calorie, fat and sodium count, weighing in at 2,310 calories, 79 grams of saturated fat and 4,370 mg of sodium. Here are the counts recommended by the FDA for adults:

One dish of pasta contains more than a day’s worth of calories, almost four times the saturated fat and almost twice the sodium recommended for an entire day.

Maybe you’re in the mood for a different kind of meat-lover’s meal.  A 16-oz prime rib, loaded sweet potato and Caesar salad at Texas Roadhouse will add 2,820 calories to whatever you’ve consumed earlier in the day, along with 72 grams of saturated fat and 5,330 grams of sodium.  It also adds more than a day’s worth of added sugar.

Eggs are healthy, right?  Head over to IHOP for a cheeseburger omelette and a side of pancakes and you won’t have to eat again all day.  CPSI reports that at 1,990 calories, 45 grams of fat and 4,580 grams of sodium, it’s the equivalent of eating four McDonald’s Sausage Egg McMuffins drizzled with 2 tablespoons of syrup.

These are extreme examples, but do show that it’s often impossible to guess the nutrition content of restaurant meals.  The best strategy for eating healthy in restaurants (especially if you do it often) is to look for fresh veggies, lean proteins like chicken or fish, whole grains and flavor from spices and herbs. High-fat, processed meats and creamy sauces will add unwanted fat, sodium and calories. We all deserve a treat sometimes, but knowing what you’re actually consuming might change your mind about what to eat and how often to splurge.

All nutritional information from cpsinet.org