Should Restaurants Be Counting Their Carbs?

Ginger Vieira Health Guide
  • Imagine sit down at a nice restaurant -- whether it's the sassy bistro downtown or your basic AppleBees. You open the menu to find (in small print I'm sure) not only all the information you need to count your carbohydrates, but also every other bit of nutritional info you need to make the healthiest choices... or, to at least become fully aware that you're making unhealthy choices.


    Sounds pretty good to me.


    Unfortunately, it's not going to happen -- at least not in New York City.


    Reported in a NYTimes article, city health regulators were trying to pass a law requiring restaurants and fast-food chains in New York to post the calorie content of their food on the menus to combat the obesity epidemic. The proposal was turned town by a federal judge with the state's restaurant association, who explained that the industry "already posts nutrition labeling on packed goods, and voluntarily posts calorie information."

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    For those of us who truly rely on the nutrition panels every day for our health care, we know that the necessary information is not actually there, and that it's also quite hard to guess because you don't know how your food was prepared.


    So many restaurant foods completely baffle me when it comes to guessing carb and fat quantities. Soups...salads and dressings...veggie burgers...chicken fingers...even the bowl of corn I had the other day at a restaurant tasted like it'd been marinated in butter for days.


    You can't trust anything in restaurants.


    The article also mentioned some artery-clogging facts: Chili's chicken caesar salad seems like a healthy choice, but it's actually packing in 1,010 calories and 76 grams of fat!


    Did you know the Bloomin' Onion at the Outback Steakhouse serves up a whopping 2,200 calories and more than 100 grams of fat? I mean, this shouldn't be too surprising considering it's battered, deep-fried and served with some unknown dipping sauce (watch out for these!)...but either way, you may think splitting half of this dish with a friend won't cause any harm, when in reality it's almost enough calories for a entire day.


    Take a seat at the average restaurant with a hamburger and onion rings and you could consume anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 calories. Even the grilled chicken club sandwich at McDonald's has more calories than a BigMac! (And NO, that does not mean you can order a BigMac instead.) Meanwhile, a Pop-Tart (which really, no diabetic needs) has about 56 different ingredients in it... so who knows what you're putting in your body then!


    The point is, if you're really, really, trying to eat healthfully, lose weight, improve your blood sugars, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol, you need to be oh-so-careful when you're ordering at a restaurant.


    Obviously, skipping potato dishes of any kind will help, because while we know French Fries are sincerely evil, even a bowl of mashed potatoes at most restaurants has been loved with butter and salt to taste as delicious as possible. A good habit I've taken up lately is to always (and I mean always) ask for a steamed vegetable in place of the potato -- and I've yet to find a place that won't do this.


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    And of course, when ordering a salad, you should skip the ones with bacon (duh) and ask for the low-fat dressing. And when the salad arrives, feel free to scoot those croutons off the dish and into a napkin, ‘cause nobody needs ‘em.


    In the end, we clearly can't rely on other people to prepare food healthfully and encourage us to make good decisions. It's your responsibility to eat right. It's about sacrificing a greasy meal for a healthy (and STILL DELICIOUS!) meal, because while it might not seem as satisfying at the dinner table, a few hours afterward you know that so many parts of your body will be thanking you.


    For dinner tonight, try making my favorite salad:









    And don't forget the fat-free dressing! 

Published On: September 13, 2007