PhotoNutritionists will tell you that there is more to weight control than counting calories. But it can't be denied that piling up the calories will usually lead to packing on some extra pounds.

When you prepare meals at home you can take steps to minimize extra calories and increase awareness of the ingredients that go into your food. When you dine out at restaurants, it's not as easy.

That requires some discretion when you order from the menu, avoiding dishes that, just from the descriptions, you know are packed with extra calories. In its latest release of the Xtreme Eating Awards, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) highlights a few dishes in particular that may be very tasty, but are high in calories.

The group singles out chain restaurants for top honors, saying some dishes have twice the calories a person should consume in a single day. You'll find the full list of this year's "honorees" here.

Pancakes as a side dish

“Leave it to America’s chain restaurant industry to market a stack of pancakes as a side dish, or to lard up quesadillas and pasta with pizza toppings, or to ruin a perfectly good sweet potato,” said CSPI senior nutritionist Lindsay Moyer. “These meals are extreme, but even the typical dishes served at restaurants are a threat to Americans’ health because they increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more.”

But the experts at Fitness Magazine say it is possible to dine out without going overboard on calories. It starts with arriving at the restaurant without a huge appetite. If you're famished, chances are you'll fill up on bread before the food arrives.

Go easy on the wine. There's about 100 calories in each glass. That goes for cocktails too.

Look closely at dishes labeled "light." They may qualify because they are low in carbs, but may still have lots of calories.

Portion control

Portion control is a big factor. Restaurants like to serve huge portions of food because they believe that's what their customers want. But no one needs to eat that much food. Just eat some of it and take the rest home. It might feed you for several days.

Several months from now it will be easier to keep tabs on calories when dining out, as the Food and Drug Administration's final menu labeling rule takes effect in May 2018. That rule will require restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie information on menus and menu boards. Many fast food restaurants have already taken that step.

The rule has been expanded to include supermarkets, but last week the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved a bipartisan bill to give grocery stores added flexibility.

The Food Marketing Institute pushed for the bill, saying the FDA rule did not take into account the variety of foods and formats found in grocery stores.


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