Who doesn’t love going out to eat? I think my favorite part about it isn’t even the food, but the experience. Think about it. It’s really the only time when American society today sits down, stops worrying about everything going on in the outside world and just enjoys one another’s company. It’s a great chance to reconnect with old friends, celebrate an occasion, or just relax after a long week.
At the same time, I know eating out isn’t always the healthiest (or cheapest) answer. Because of this, I try to limit eating out to once a week. I think this also maintains going out as something special. Now, I always knew that eating out wasn’t healthy, but I always thought I chose relatively healthy meals: nothing fried or covered with butter or fat or whatever else. Yesterday however, I don’t know why but I had the urge to look up the amount of calories I was eating at my favorite restaurants: Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, The Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen (these are my three favorite chain restaurants, local restaurants didn’t have their nutrition facts online).
I went to the Cheesecake Factory first, because here I always get the Grilled Salmon, which I consider to be a healthy choice! What did I find? Grilled Salmon: 713 calories. Oof. That doesn’t even count the bread I ate before the meal or the broccoli and mashed potatoes. Even worse, after browsing their menu, the salmon was on the lower side of the calorie spectrum. After discovering this I was scared to look at Bertucci’s and CPK’s nutrition facts since I always eat pizza there.
LUCKILY I was not able to find Bertucci’s Individual Cheese Pizza (this is only my favorite meal in the whole wide world) online. But those yummy, warm rolls I love so much? 130 calories. However, I was able to find a pizza that is very similar to the one I get at 780 calories.
CPK Individual Cheese Pizza? Brace yourself: 998 calories.
Am I the only one feeling sick right now?
So at first, I started freaking out about these numbers. But then I came to a few conclusions.
Although these calories may be astronomical, I typically eat very healthy on a regular basis. I don’t like candy or chocolate and I hardly ever have ice cream (in the winter). Finally, I work out daily. Life is all about balance.
So where does that leave me? Am I going to stop going to these restaurants that are so near and dear to my heart? No. Am I glad that I now know just how many calories I am taking in when I do dine out? Yes. Am I going to consider changing how I eat out at these restaurants? Definitely yes.
How to stay healthy and still Dine Out:
- Know before you go. Look up the menu and nutrition facts before you go so you are familiar with the menu and know what the healthier choices are. Ask questions about the food/restaurant to friends, waiters, etc.
- Watch out for those rolls! I’m not sure if this is true, but I remember reading once that studies have actually shown that if you eat a small piece of whole grain bread with olive oil before your meal, you will actually consume less total calories during your dinner. The idea is that that piece of bread has cut your hunger so you will be fuller faster during your main course and stop eating sooner. I’m just going to throw that out as a theory since I can’t find any evidence to support it haha.
- Customize your order. Ask for dressing/sauces on the side so you decide how much to add. Choose water over soft drinks or alcoholic beverages. Get your food grilled, broiled or baked as opposed to fried.
- Listen to your body. Listen to the cues your body gives you and stop eating when you are full. I think this is the most important one to remember and often times the hardest one to do.
- Look at the big picture. If you know you are going out to dinner that night for a special occasion, try to eat extra healthy earlier in the day. It’s okay to splurge every once in a while, life is all about balance! : )
I hope you found this post as eye opening as I did. I also hope you continue to go out to eat and I didn’t completely ruin that for you. I’m sure you already know all these things. I felt like I did too, but I think I found that I was underestimating just how bad it really was.