The Best and Worst Restaurants

Dave rented the January/February 2011 Men’s Health magazine from the library (our main source for free entertainment). I was skimming through it and found an article comparing restaurants and I was pretty intrigued, so I’ll share a few in hopes of helping you make wiser decisions when eating out:

Sandwich shop:
Best: Subway
You can find at least ten 6-inch subs under 400 calories, including cheese, and you can pile on all the produce you want for no extra charge. Just watch your sauces.
Worst: Quiznos

65% of the regular size sandwiches are over 500 calories, the worst being the tuna melt- 870 calories! There are healthier options like the flatbread Sammies.

Italian restaurant:
Best: Macaroni Grill
Their fettuccine alfredo used to be 1,200 calories in 2008, but the new CEO declared a nutrition makeover and it is now 37% slimmer at 770 calories. Still a little high, but not if you eat half and box the rest for later.
Worst: Olive Garden

Half of the dinner options exceed 1,000 calories. They love serving huge portions, and we Americans love cleaning our plates. They also offer bottomless portions of carb-heavy breadsticks and dressing-soaked salads.

Chinese restaurant:
Best: Panda Express

You can find many entrees under 300 calories. Men’s Health top pick is the broccoli beef with mixed vegetables instead of rice or noodles and add a chicken egg roll.
Worst: PF Changs

My heart broke a little on this one, but I saw it coming. It’s difficult to find an entrée under 600 calories, but you can always ask for a box right when your order comes and put half in it. I’ve had to do this or else I’ll just keep chipping away at the other half until my server brings me a box. They love to pack in the sodium in the meals, so prepare for a few bloated days.

Breakfast diner:
Best: Bob Evans

This place only deserves the “best” pick if you order right. Skip the burritos, scrambles, and stuffed stuff. Order as basic as you can an build your own healthy breakfast- eggs, home fries (better than hash browns), and a fruit dish.
Worst: IHOP

Every combo encourages a side of bacon or sausage, every order of pancakes comes with an ice cream-scoop of butter, and most omelets are packed with meat, cheese, and toppings like sour cream and more cheese.

Mexican chain:
Best: Chipotle

Men’s Health refers to Chipotle as the Mexican Subway. Since you can customize your meal, you have control over what goes in your burrito (or naked burrito).
Worst: On the Border
Their menu favors breaded fish, creamy sauces, and fried tortillas. Pick a random dessert and you’ll easily hit 1,000.

Burger joint:
Best: Wendy’s

This chain beats the competition in two ways: most of the burgers fall below 400 calories and they offer healthier sides like chili, baked potato, and small salads.
Worst: Dairy Queen

The infamous Blizzard averages over 800 calories for a medium serving. That’s more most of us should have in a meal and you haven’t even ordered your entrée. Stick with the Original Cheeseburger under 500 calories and if you need ice cream, order a small cone or share the monstrous Blizzard with a friend.

What restaurants have surprised you with their nutrition content, good or bad?

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Author: budgetforhealth

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget for Health!

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