Sneaky Ways Restaurants Fatten You Up: Part 1
It’s such a bummer when you go to a restaurant and order chicken and vegetables – thinking you’re making a diet-friendly choice – and find out later during a Google search that you downed around 1000 calories on your supposedly “healthy” meal.
What? You don’t check restaurants websites for nutritional info? Ok, so maybe I’m a little obsessive.
But the point is: there are tons of hidden calories in meals made outside of your own kitchen. Unless you’re a psycho calorie-stalker (like me) who predetermines what you’re going to order before going out to eat, you need some guidelines to follow to prevent you from destroying your diet every time you go on a dinner date.
Since I’ll be eating every meal out for the next two weeks during my Italian vacation, it got me thinking about how to stay healthy away from home.
Obviously, I’ll be much more lenient than usual about these “rules” during my first trip to such an exciting culinary country, but I figured I’d share with you my usual approach to dining.
I have a plethora of tips and tricks so I’m going to break this out into three parts. First, let’s start with chicken. You’re thinking, “What could possibly be wrong with that?”
So many things.
The chicken could be fried, breaded, or swimming in a butter bath. How do you know before ordering? Let’s go through the common calorie pitfalls:
The skin on a piece of chicken breast adds about 90 calories and 8 grams of fat. The worst part is that it is most likely fried in a vat of oil. No Bueno. Go skinless or peel it off on your own.
We all know deep-frying food — totally immersing something in a vat of hot oil — is really bad for you. But did you know that sautéing, stir-frying, and pan-frying are all just different names for essentially the same process of covering food in oil or butter to cook it?
The terms only change based on the amount of fat used in the process but they all involve fatty oil and/or butter. For example, the Buddha’s Feast at P.F. Changs (which is essentially just vegetables, tofu, and rice), is 140 calories and 8 grams of fat extra if you get it stir-fried instead of steamed.
Ask for all your meats to be grilled, baked or steamed with no oil, or at least with only a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.
Just because a dish is titled “Zesty Lemon Cod” doesn’t mean it’s light and healthy.
Most marinades and sauces are hiding ingredients like butter, cream, and loads of sugar. Ask for your sauce on the side if you need it, or order a simply seasoned piece of meat. Also, as a general rule, assume that all red sauces are usually healthier than white.
Red = Tomatoes, White = Cream.
Ok, so maybe you’re not a meat eater. That doesn’t mean you’re safe either.
Most of the cooking methods I mentioned above can be done to vegetables and meat substitutes like tofu or tempeh, and a lot all of the dishes have heavy sauces. Never think that because a dish is vegetarian or vegan that it is a diet-friendly option. Anything with a “cashew cheese sauce” or “tofu sour cream” will be high in calories.
Take the Crispy Chickin’ Plate at Veggie Grill for instance. Yeah, they use healthy ingredients to make it, but at 590 calories and 30 grams of fat, I’d hardly call it a lean meal.