Secrets of Restaurant Nutrition
What you need to know about nutrition and food safety in your favorite restaurants.
Economy's Impact on Restaurant Food continued...
Some restaurants are shrinking portions of meat and adding more vegetables
and starches. More steamed broccoli is a good thing, but watch out for plates
heaped with starches heavy in calories and saturated fat, such as buttery
mashed potatoes and noodles in a cream sauce.
Other restaurants are leaving portion sizes alone but switching from more
expensive, leaner cuts of meat, like tenderloin and pork chops, to fattier
meats such as pork shoulder (Boston butt), spare ribs, beef short ribs, and
Here's another restaurant secret: For the best bargains and the most
nutrients, stick to the center of the menu. Entrees usually have lower markups
and more nutritional balance than other parts of a menu, like desserts,
beverages and appetizers. A non-chocolate dessert may cost more than four times
as much as the ingredients it contains. Lobster, on the other hand, is priced
much closer to what it actually costs the restaurant, says Kevin Gillespie,
executive chef at Woodfire Grill in Atlanta.
Small plates that are scaled-down versions of entrees can be a good deal.
But watch how many you order, to keep calories and costs under control.
Restaurants that have switched to small plates report higher check averages,
because customers typically order more food.
On a special diet? Check a restaurant's web site before you go. Many
restaurants, especially chain restaurants, include restaurant nutrition
information about allergens, gluten-free foods, and diabetic exchanges online
even if they don't disclose calories and other nutritional data.
Ask for a customized plate if you're on a restricted diet, but understand
that not all restaurants can fulfill your request. While some chefs enjoy the
creative challenge of preparing a low-sodium or low-fat meal, a special meal
may be tougher at high-volume restaurants that may rely on meats or entrees
Watch the Seafood
Be picky about seafood. Chef and author Anthony Bourdain clued foodies in to
an unwritten restaurant secret -- never eat seafood on Mondays -- in Kitchen
Confidential. That's because many restaurants, except a select group that
specialize in fresh seafood, don't get deliveries over the weekend. And seafood
deteriorates much more rapidly than meat and poultry.