So I recently came across this article by the New York Times, have you seen it? It takes a look at what 2,000 calories looks like at different restaurant chains. Two of my favorite vendors have made the list: Starbucks and Shake Shack. Oh Shake Shack. How I love you. But anyway.
As my dad always said growing up, restaurants “steal your health and steal your wealth.” I definitely agree. On top of expecting to pay at least $10/person, if you’re ordering in from a restaurant or going out to eat, you really can’t say you know exactly what’s going into your food. Even if you get a salad, oftentimes the dressings are full of wacky ingredients that were probably never meant for human consumption. Not only that, but many many restaurants pour oil and butter into their dishes and onto their griddles, making its way onto your plate, causing the calories to add up. Scary!!
It’s pretty interesting to see what you can get for 2,000 calories at each restaurant chain. For some places like Subway, you can get a whole day’s worth of food, while at others (so sad, Shake Shack), you can blow it all in one meal. Some you can even chomp it all in one dish!!! I don’t know about you, but as I progressed through the article, I could feel my blood pressure rising! And then it nicely came back down when it showcased what you can make at home for 2,000 calories. Ah, nothing beats cooking at home.
So when you do decide to go out to eat, what can you do to make sure you avoid consuming a whole day’s worth of calories in one meal? These are the tips I follow below:
- Research before. A lot of large chains like Chipotle, Starbucks, and salad places have nutrition calculators where you can build the meal you want and it will tell you all of the nutrition information. A lot of sit down restaurants also have their entire menus available online, and their nutrition information either on their website and/or on MyFitnessPal. Plan what you want to eat before you go so you know exactly how it will fit into your meal plan.
- Watch your drinks. It’s so easy to drink your calories. When you go out to eat, an alcoholic beverage, a regular soda, or a sweetened iced tea can add hundreds of calories to your meal. If you’re going to have a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail, stick with only one and avoid really sugary drinks. Even with non-alcoholic drinks, go with diet soda over regular, or just have plain water with lemon or lime. Oh, and those milkshakes they show for almost every restaurant in the New York Times article? Skip them!! They’re NEVER worth it. My gallbladder hurts just thinking about them.
- Know your vocabulary. Words on the menu like “crispy,” “battered,” “fried,” “smothered,” or “breaded,” likely indicate the dish has loads of oil and is likely super high in fat and calories. Instead, look for words like “grilled,” “fresh,” “roasted,” “poached,” or “broiled,” as these describe lower-calorie cooking methods. A more comprehensive list can be found here.
- Be conscious of portion sizes and extras. I know, I know. A lot of health professionals will tell you that when you order your food, ask for a to-go box and immediately put half of your meal inside of it and save it for later. If you’re anything like me, though, this trick NEVER works. I always end up eating the first half, and then digging into the portion that I intended to save for later! If this happens to you too, and you know you’re probably going to eat your entire dish, try to avoid snacking on chips and salsa, bread, or whatever pre-meal goodies they put on the table. Stick to one breadstick or a handful of chips so you don’t overdo it. During the main course, be mindful of what you’re eating, focus on the flavor, texture, and experience of every bite so you can be aware of how much you’re eating, and you can stop much more easily when you’re satisfied, which means more for later!
- Edit where you can. If you’re really looking into losing weight/watching your calories, you can edit your meal or swap for healthier options. Get the grilled vegetables instead of French fries on the side of your sandwich or steak. Get mustard instead of mayonnaise. Whole wheat instead of white (pasta, pizza, etc.). Scrambled egg whites instead of scrambled eggs. Trim off the visible fat. Take the top bun off of your hamburger or ask for a lettuce wrap. Ask for the dressing on the side, and dip your fork in it before scooping up your salad. If you eat out a lot, these tricks are probably more useful.
But seriously, if you’re going out to eat for a special occasion, or going to a special restaurant, don’t be afraid to indulge. If you do find yourself eating out multiple times/week, these tips may be more helpful to keep from weighing you down.
What do you think of the article? Did your favorite dish make the list? What are some other ways you navigate unhealthy restaurant calorie bombs?