Recently, thanks to Obamacare, restaurants with 20+ locations are required to list calorie content information for standard menu items on menus. Total calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and total protein have to be made available in writing upon request.
Unfortunately, most restaurants and cafe’s don’t fall into the 20+ locations category, and as such it can be very difficult to accurately guess what’s in the food you’re consuming when eating out.
That doesn’t mean all hope is lost though. Here are my tips on how to get a good idea of the nutritional value of food not prepared by you. Keep in mind that all these things can be done in tandem to get the most accurate estimate:
Step 1. Order the Most Unprocessed Food
Processed foods have the most variation when it comes to calories. That’s because added ingredients meant to give food a distinctive taste (creamier, richer, sweeter, crispier) can really add to the bottom line of the nutritional content.
That doesn’t mean that a restaurant can’t totally wipe out the lower calorie value of whole foods like vegetables by pouring on sauce or oil. However, you have a better chance of asking your whole food to be prepared (or not prepared) a certain way to cut back on those calories, while you have no such option of pre-packaged foods the restaurant chooses to purchase – like bread.
So, when dining out look for the most unprocessed, whole – closest to its natural state – foods on the menu. Look out for the way it is prepared and avoid anything deep fried, fried, or breaded and go for grilled, baked, roasted, or boiled.
In case you’re wondering how ordering the most unprocessed food will let you know how many calories you’re consuming – be patient my friend, we’ll get to it in the later step.
Step 2. Always Section Off Half to Go
The next thing you should do when ordering out is immediately upon getting your dish, divide your meal into two. If you are dealing with a solid type of food (like salmon or other white fish, it’s easy to cut and stack one piece on top of the other to visually make sure you have half).