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Duped By “Healthy” Restaurant Meals?

The other day Turtle177 posted a comment on my ‘weather and weight’ blog about being frustrated with eating out. She wrote,


“My husband and I don't eat out very often, and when we do, we know where to go with healthier options, but at least once a week I have to eat out for work (not my choice of location usually) and sometimes I can't seem to find anything healthy. And if there is something seemingly healthy, I'll often discover later that it was not. (For example - I ordered Tofu Lettuce Wraps at an Asian restaurant recently thinking it was my best bet, but discovered later that the filling is deep fried). I also don't want to be labeled the super-picky annoying one that wants everything made especially for me, but it's so hard to find healthy options at a lot of restaurants. I can't wait for the day that nutritionals are required in all restaurants so I can do some decent research in advance.”


I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been a registered dietitian for over 15 years and it’s still a nutritional minefield for me. For example there’s a certain chain restaurant I really like that we don’t have in New York City, so whenever I’m in a city that has one I tend to go there. That was the case recently, and before I went I hopped online to check out the nutrition info. To my surprise the ‘servings per dish’ for my favorite entrée (which I consider to be 1 serving) read 2, not 1 (meaning the calories, sodium, etc. are really double the numbers listed – always be sure to check that column!). Even worse the ingredients weren’t available, so there was no real way to see what type of oil was used, if any artificial ingredients were added, etc. 


Like Turtle177 I don’t want to be the annoying one that’s nit picky about everything I eat, but the truth is I think that info should be available for people who want it. Without a doubt unless you have access to every piece of the nutrition puzzle it’s nearly impossible to choose meals that meet your needs and goals.


I think we have a long way to go, but I’m thrilled to see restaurants like Chipotle offer easy to access nutrition info online – about nutrition facts AND ingredients. For example, the pinto and black beans both provide the same number of calories and grams of protein, but in the ingredient section of the web site reveals that the pinto beans are seasoned with bacon, while the black beans are vegetarian.


I know that everyone’s definition of ‘healthy’ varies, but if you’re a regular reader of this blog you probably know that the ingredient list is the very first thing I read, and I think it’s the most revealing about whether a food is ‘healthy.’ If you want that info and your favorite restaurants don’t publish it ask, ask, ask, and ask other people to ask. The ultimate reason any real and lasting changes occur within the food and restaurant industry is due to consumer demand!


Do you look for ingredients when you dine out? Do you have trouble finding them? Do you eat at certain restaurants and avoid others because of the availability of nutrition info or lack thereof? Please share your thoughts.

P.S. This pic is my fav Chipotle meal - a veggie fajita burrito bowl made with no rice (sub lettuce), black beans, fajita veggies, medium salsa, corn salsa and guac - yum! (with unsweetened iced tea) 


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