The truth behind "healthy" restaurant options -

The truth behind "healthy" restaurant options

When you cook at home it is easier to make healthy choices because you control the portion size and how each item is prepared. What about when you dine out?

Many restaurants now provide nutritional information for consumers and serve low calorie items but could these choices be good for your waistline?

In an effort to get the skinny on these diet dishes, we hit the road to visit a few local restaurants. We ordered the same meal three times, on three different days and took them to the Food Science Program Lab at Auburn University. Professor Leonard Bell weighed each sample, blended the food and let it dry overnight. He then grinded the food into a course powder for analysis.
We bought the Asiago Peppercorn Steak from the Applebee's "under 550 calorie menu." The 7 oz sirloin is grilled and served with steamed potatoes and vegetables. says it has 380 calories with 14 grams of fat.

The results of our test were actually better. One meal was as low as 315 calories and 4.3 fat grams.

We then decided to check out Chili's Margarita Grilled Chicken which is served with rice and black beans. According to the Chili's website, it should have 550 calories and 14 grams of fat.

The meal tested higher in calories twice at 610 and 570. The third time we were given a smaller portion which made the number of calories and fat grams lower.

Maureen Locus of Brinker International offered a statement on behalf of Chili's Bar and Grill saying:

"...variations in nutritional content may occur due to in-restaurant preparation, portion size variances and guest customization of menu items, among other factors. To the extent that the Margarita Grilled Chicken or any other of the items ordered may not have been prepared to our current standards, we apologize to our valued guests."

Outback Steakhouse was our last stop. We ordered the Atlantic Salmon with seasoned veggies. The restaurant lists it as 524 calories with 34 grams of fat but there were fewer calories and fat grams in all three meals tests.

One meal was actually 440 calories and 23.6 fat grams.

In our investigation, two out of the three restaurants really offered healthier options. Professor Bell reminds us that on any given day, there are a lot of reasons why the meals could be good or bad for your diet.
"Whether or not they used a full fat sour cream instead of a low fat sour cream, full fat cheese instead of low fat cheese, whether or not they had a long fry time—the longer you fry the more oil can absorb into the food so there are a number of variables that could contribute to that," he says. "When making food choices the best thing is to look at total diet rather than focus in on one meal."

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