Monday, March 28, 2011

Meatless Monday: Diners Beware Part 3

Those of you who join me regularly on Meatless Monday know that I’ve been taking a break from my usual posts to provide you with nutrition information for restaurant chains. Last week the list was Fast Food/Take-Out. This week it’s Restaurants (defined by table service). There are many regional restaurant chains, and I know I’ve missed some. But this list will give you an idea of what type of fare the chains are serving up.

There was a bit of good news in this category. Eat ’N Park, a chain in Pennsylvania  and Ohio, sources many of its ingredients from local farms. You can read testimonials from family farmers here

If you look carefully you will find some reasonable choices in many of these listings, particularly in sub-categories with titles like “Healthy Choices.” In general, though, if the fat or calories don’t get you, the sodium will. And do read very carefully to determine how many servings are in a portion and whether the nutritional data is for portion, serving, or piece.

As a point of reference, please keep this info in mind. A moderately active young woman requires approximately 2,000 calories per day. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone limit daily sodium consumption to 1500 milligrams (less than 3/4 teaspoon of salt), and that the aforementioned woman limit her saturated fat to 20 grams or less, and her total fat to between 50 and 70 grams per day. Most of these menus are using the older 2300 milligrams a day guideline for sodium intake.

99: [Sodium is off the chart; calories and fat not looking too good either.]
Applebee’s: [Check out the under 550 Calories  and WeightWatchers offerings, but watch the sodium.]
Buffalo Wild Wings
Nutrition info is not available on their site. Some info, minus sodium and saturated fat is here:
Cracker Barrel: Does not make this information available. 
[Read more here: Among other things the site states: “While we are unable to give any exact calorie or fat content information, the following choices may help you in your selection…” Hmmmm… Won’t be going back there.]
Denny’s [There are a few surprises here, particularly in the Senior Menu, one of them being that you are a senior if you are 55! Watch those Scrambles and Skillets!]
Eat ’N Park: [FarmSource is Eat ’N Park’s local purchasing program in which the chain partners with more than 20 farms and dairies in the areas of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Northern Ohio. Read more here.] 
Golden Corral: [It’s all available here, but the complete menu is sub-divided into 5 categories.]
Longhorn Steakhouse:
Olive Garden: [Watch the salt and remember to add; for pizza, toppings are listed separately.]
Outback: [Calculator for individual items] For a complete list: [No listing for saturated fat or sodium]
Perkins: [Calculator for individual items] 
For a complete list: [No listing for saturated fat or sodium]
Rainforest Cafe: No listing on the site.
Go here for a listing of most facts: [No listing for saturated fat or sodium]
Red Lobster:
Ruby Tuesday’s: [Note the Smart Eating Choices. But remember that appetizers are shown by the serving. If you plan to eat the whole thing, multiply by 4!]
Texas Roadhouse:
Does not make the information available. 
Read more here:
T.G.I. Friday’s:
Does not make the information available. 
Read more here: 
A limited amount of information is available here:
Uno Chicago Grill: [Not a complete menu listing. But you can search for items meeting criteria such as “less than 500 calories,” “less than 750 mg. sodium,” or “vegetarian.” It’s all here, you just have to look for it. BTW, I checked out the vegetarian burger, and see that I need to multiply everything by 2 because 1 burger is 2 servings! Read carefully!]

Besides the nutritional shortcomings, another thing to consider is the sourcing and sustainability of the ingredients purchased by the chain, particularly the proteins. Other than what I’ve told you about Eat ’N Park, I’m not prepared to tackle this question, at least not yet.

Have a good week. I hope I haven’t ruined it for you. But you can’t save the planet if you’re not around… Next Monday I promise a new topic. And look for me on Freebie Friday when I’ll have a nifty tool or two.

I try to blog on food or food issues each Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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