Healthy Restaurant Eating

By The Restaurant Dieter

Tag: chains (page 2 of 3)

Best in fast food? Everything’s relative

Another website has come up with its list of best bets among chain restaurant fast food.

It’s a pretty good list if one remembers that this food should be consumed only occasionally.

The Cheesecake Factory: Unapologetic about its campaign to kill you

“When people eat at home, they want to eat low cal, but when they go out to dine, they really want every calorie they’re paying for,” says David Overton, CEO of The Cheesecake Factory. “Because it’s celebratory, they’re here, they want to have a good time.

David Overton

That quote from the chain’s 65-year-old founder comes from a recent interview with ABC News.  It made me race for the Google’s image search, hoping to find a photo. Was the man overweight and perhaps skirting with poor health himself? I wanted to indulge a fantasy that karma would come back around to punish him for pushing some of the most outrageous and over-sized restaurant foods in America.

The photo of him from several websites appears to be the kind of corporate CEO portrait handed out by the PR department. It shows a round-faced man with full cheeks and a blossoming second chin on top of what appears to be a large frame.

Perhaps Overton’s eaten a few too many of his chain’s Farmhouse Burgers, topped with bacon, mayo and a fried egg. It seems telling that the company’s website doesn’t include a section on nutritional analysis. Most other chains do at least that.

The large portions, he says, are “what America wants to eat.”

Certainly, his chain’s status as one of the industry’s most profitable chains backs him up. But hasn’t he ever heard of corporate responsibility? And if not that, how about enlightened self interest? That may be at work with the company’s recently-introduced SkinnyLicious (TM) Menu

Let’s hope the effort is catching when it comes to the rest of the menu. When his current customer base succumbs to Type 2 Diabetes and premature death, who will line up at his restaurants then?

An Applebee’s ad on this website?

The Restaurant Dieter does not choose the advertising that appears on his page. Nor, at this point, has he seen a dime of the advertising revenue.

I feel compelled to say this because in looking at the page today, I noticed that it carried an advertisement for Applebee’s. Readers know that I am not a fan of its approach — fat, salt and sugar layered on one another in enormous portions.

Here’s how this works. I agree to let Google serve ads onto my pages. Using keywords, their software determines, from the content, what kind of advertising might be of interest to the blog’s readers.

No human goes in to see exactly what the content is. So all the computers see is that I write about restaurants a lot. Hence, the Applebee’s advertisement.

Before any money changes hands, a blog has to achieve a certain level of page view traffic. As of the beginning of 2012, no money had changed hands.

Subway is talking about…grease?

In the world of political campaign advertising, it’s known as “going negative.” It’s when campaigns shelve those high-minded ads about what their candidate will do in favor of negative ads. They’re easy to spot: ominous Jaws-like music plays over dark images that predict armageddon if the other guy wins.

Subway has been content, at least until now, to stress its positive benefits. But a new ad for its Oven Crisp Chicken Sub takes the gloves off, according to Marketing Daily. The sandwich is 420 calories and 6.7 grams of fat but promises to give a taste more equivalent to that fried chicken sandwich.

It’s about time.

Please Applebees’s: Stop the Madness

In the restaurant biz — particularly chains — it’s the Holy Trinity: Fat, salt and sugar. Creating new dishes that hits all three of those compass points means satisfied customers.

It also means fat ones. Former FDA commissioner David Kessler has written about how the industry test kitchens are all about maximizing flavor via those three ingredients.

One chain where this seems near-gospel is Applebee’s. On a restaurant industry website, the chain was touting a new dessert.

It’s a cinnamon apple turnover that is “a miniature apple pie with cinnamon flavored apple slices hidden inside a flaky pastry crust.The dessert is topped with a honey cream cheese sauce and is served with a slice of vanilla ice cream.”

Salt, fat, sugar.

I couldn’t find the new dessert listed on Applebee’s own website, but another new menu innovation certainly makes the point:

“Stacked, stuffed and topped: The entrees you love, packed with even more flavor.”

From this, we get the Chicken Parmesan stack, which is

“Country-fried chicken stuffed with Italian cheeses, smothered in our spicy marinara and served atop a bed of fettuccine with roasted garlic Alfredo, onions and peppers. Topped with parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese. Served with toasted garlic bread.”

There’s really nothing I can add.

Better Oatmeal at Chik-fil-A

Chik-fil-A‘s got a new multi-grain oatmeal that provides at least a decent alternative to that bundle of fat and sodium called a chicken biscuit.

Without the toppings, an 8-ounce serving is 120 calories, 3 grams fat, 21 grams carbs and 4 grams protein. With topping, it climbs to 280 calories, 11 g fat, 44 g carbs, and 6 g protein. The toppings are cinnamon brown sugar, nuts and dried fruit.
I wish it had more fiber, though, because that’s what makes a meal filling and satisfying. The plain has 3 grams of fiber; with toppings it increases to 5. For comparison, a Thomas’ Light English Muffin is 100 calories, 1 gram fat and 8 grams of fiber

Happier McDonald’s Happy Meal, but Will You Choose It?

By September 2011, McDonald’s is planning to introduce a Happy Meal that is healthier for children.

The meal will come with apple slices — two bags if one wants to skip the fries, which are also scaled down to a smaller portion. The beverage choices will include fat free chocolate milk and 1 percent milk.

We wondered why a prominent chain like Mickey D’s would leave itself out of the National Restaurant Industry’s new program to promote healthier chain meals for children. Apparently, McD’s had its own announcement coming shortly.

Because the centerpiece of the new Happy Meal remains a hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken nuggets, it’s hard to get too excited. A burger is 250 calories with 9 grams of fat and 520 mg of sodium. A cheese burger is worse at 300 calories, 12 grams fat and 750 mg of sodium. The nuggets are marginally better than both with 190 calories, 112 grams fat and 360 mg of sodium.

Add to that how powerless parents often are when they pull into the Golden Arches. Nation’s Restaurant News says that only 11 percent of those ordering Happy Meals now choose the apple slices option.

Fries and obesity vs. tears: I guess the fries win.

Restaurant Calorie Counts: Way Off

Are you more likely to get bad nutritional information at a McDonald’s or an Applebees?

The latter, says a Tufts University research study. Fast food restaurants automate the kitchen to the point that portions are more precise. It’s the sit-down restaurant where the cook in the kitchen has more latitude to make the food as it suits him or her.
The researchers tested 269 foods. Nearly 20 percent were off by more than 100 calories, and not in the customer’s favor.

Review: El Pollo Loco, Atlanta

It’s so easy to catch a fast food restaurant at the worst possible moment. The floor has a spill. Several of the tables are littered with trays and discarded food. The ice tea dispenser is empty. They run out of the item you order — after you pay the tab. They’re understaffed, but the folks behind the counter seem to be re-enacting “Night of the Living Dead.” A line is forming, no food comes up from the kitchen promptly and the manager, shirt partially untucked, is fiddling with the screen as if launching the last space shuttle.

Welcome to El Pollo Loco, a restaurant chain that is at least trying to make a difference when it comes to eating out healthy. Unfortunately, it  wasn’t just the chicken that was crazy; this patron was as well.
The El Pollo bowl
Lunch at the restaurant seemed like a good idea, given that El Pollo Loco was among the 19 chains last week that agreed to participate in a new child nutritional program touted by the National Restaurant Association. Called “Kids Live Well,” it aims to brand restaurants and items with a “seal of approval” that hope to make it easier to chose healthy food.
The visit, unfortunately, demonstrated the biggest problem with the program thus far: The 19 chains have the program at 15,000 locations nationwide. The El Pollo Loco I chose on Buford Highway in Atlanta is not among the participating restaurants. So the program’s happy logo was nowhere to be found.
But El Pollo got the nod anyway. It was 2p.m., and I was crazy hungry. Plus, the chain also participates in other programs with Healthy Dining, the consulting company involved in the NRA initiative. The nutritional information posted just inside the door featured many items with Healthy Dining’s approval.
I decided to get the chicken tortilla soup, minus the tortilla strips, and the Original Pollo Bowl. The soup clocked in at 140 calories, 5 grams of fat and 840 mg of sodium. Because it never arrived, I saved those calories easily enough.
The  Pollo Bowl was listed at 610 calories, 10 grams fat, and 1,750 mg of sodium (way too much), although I asked the kitchen to skip the cheese and rice in the bowl. That might have been a mistake because by the time I waited for my refund on the soup, the bowl was a lukewarm soupy mixture of beans, onions, pico de gallo and chicken chunks, garnished with chopped cilantro. Blah.
Barbecue black beans and steamed vegetables
Still feeling hungry, I went back for a side of fresh vegetables and the barbecue black beans. The former didn’t exactly have the texture of great veggies, just pulled from the steamer. But they did have some texture and, at a fast food restaurant, something of a miracle. It’s hard to knock them.
The black beans were 200 calories, 3 grams fat and 520 of sodium. The typically rich, earthly flavor of black beans was buried beneath a blanket of sickly sweet barbecue sauce. It seemed more like the kind of sugary baked beans one brings to the church picnic. No wonder. With 16 grams of sugar, that half-cup of black beans had more sugar than the 14 grams in an Oreo cookie.
It’s tempting to grade on good intentions — a fast food chain with steamed vegetables deserves some credit. But between the food, the experience and the sodium content, one can’t honestly declare this visit to El Pollo Loco a winner.

Baskin-Robbins: Baby Size for Dieters

Baskin-Robbins announced a new ice cream cone product that follows the smaller serving trend, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

Called Baskin-Robbins Mini Cones, they range from 35 to 100 calories, depending on the flavor selected. They’re offered in customizable packs of 16 cones or pre-made using Mint Chocolate Chip, Very Berry Strawberry, Gold Medal Ribbon and Rainbow Sherbet.

Progress, I’d say.

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