Focus on Nutrition > Overrated Restaurant Items

Overrated Restaurant Items

By Beth LaCoste, R.D., L.D.

Restaurant Items

Not all healthy restaurant meals are created equal. Don’t be deceived because an item sounds healthy. Investigate, ask the server how items are prepared or look at the restaurant’s nutrition information online.

  1. Salad—A plate packed with dark leafy greens and vegetables is extremely healthy, but one drenched with dressing and cheese can be loaded with calories and fat.
  2. Fish—Baked or grilled fish with lemon is a great choice, but a fried fish platter can top 2,000 calories. Fish with butter or cream sauces can also blow your diet out of the water.
  3. Smoothies—A blend of low-fat yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit is very healthy. Unfortunately, the restaurant versions tend to be much higher in sugar and calories. Plus, they can be, well, huge.
  4. Wraps—Don’t get wrapped up in the hype. Depending on the type of sauce and amount of cheese used, these wraps can wind up costing you upwards of 1,000 calories. For a healthy wrap, stick with one containing lean meats, plenty of veggies, small amounts of cheese, and no mayo or creamy sauces.
  5. Coffee drinks—A regular cup of coffee with no additions has zero calories and fat. However, many flavored coffee drinks contain more calories than a large burger, due to the cream and syrups added to them.
  6. Muffins—Many restaurant muffins are equivalent to cake in fat and calories. So, the next time you order a muffin, think of it as an oversized cupcake.
  7. Salad bar—Just because a food item is included on the salad bar, that does not necessarily mean it’s healthy. Avoid the creamy macaroni-and-pea-type salads, and watch the amount of shredded cheese you add. To build a healthy salad, stick to a variety of veggies and lean meats and use lite dressing or a small amount of regular dressing.
  8. Fried veggies—Be it sweet potatoes or broccoli, once you fry it, you are off your diet!
  9. Multi-grain breads/buns—“Multi-grain” can often be misinterpreted as being whole-grain. Multi-grained breads contain a variety of grains, but they are often refined. 100% whole-grain breads are higher in nutrients and fiber and are a good choice.
  10. Chicken—A grilled chicken breast is a great choice unless unhealthy components like cheese, bacon, and/or mayo are added. Fried chicken strips or chicken salad made with regular mayonnaise are not healthy options.
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