It’s not that chain restaurants are out to get us. Really. It’s just that they’re out to get everyone else (as customers) and leave us to manage on our own. Weight Watchers has done a great job of pulling together information on chain restaurants in its Menu Master Eating Out Guide.
The book is very complete, offering SmartPoints numbers for most chains and some non-chain but common menu items. A 3-by-4-inch piece of eggplant parmesan is 16 points, according to the book. (For non Weight Watchers members, this is the number you need for comparison. The Restaurant Dieter gets 34 points to spend on food daily, with most vegetables and fruits at zero.)
Weight Watchers’ relentlessly upbeat tone even extends to chain restaurants. “You’ll find a restaurant here an enjoy eating out. Menu Master will help make it a pleasure.” Uh-huh. Sure. How about some of these winners:
- Auntie Annie’s: What carb addict hasn’t strolled past those glistening, nutritionally vapid pretzels and had a craving? But the price is steep. A cinnamon sugar soft pretzel is 19 points even before 3 for the light cream dip or 7 for the caramel dip. Run away!
- Bruegger’s: Where a jalapeño cheddar bagel can cost you 13 points, nearly half of what you get for the entire day. Or a turkey sandwich — usually a good choice, in this case Harvest Turkey on Ciabatta, for 21 points. (A hamburger at Five Guys, which is a darn good old-fashioned burger, is only 24 SmartPoints.)
- Chili’s: I guess we have to pass on the Bacon Ranch Steak Quesadilla at 63 points. That is not a typo.
- Cinnabon: Why even bother to know the SmartPoints, when hardly anything on the menu is below 15 and ranges up to 46.
- IHOP: If breakfast starts with an order of Cinnamon Swirl Brioche French Toast and Sausage at 47 point, why not just head to bed and start over tomorrow? Or: just see Cinnabon, above.
- Jamba Juice: Didn’t smoothies start as healthful alternatives? Not here. Something that sounds as innocuous as a Banana Berry Smoothie is 32 points.
- KFC: Just be aware that the Chicken Pot Pie (at 32 SmartPoints) makes an extra crispy fried chicken breast at 13 look like a bargain.
- Red Lobster: Which has Cajun Chicken Linguine Alfredo on the children’s menu with half a serving at 25 points.
Get the book here. It’s essential.