Healthy Desserts and Restaurants
I’m not getting this about restaurants. Is it that restaurants are getting more and more lazy or is it that they just don’t want to serve healthy desserts (or, in general, healthy food)? Yes, they don’t really even serve healthy meals, but that’s another topic. I know I’m not the only one, but consuming a decadent chocolate molten cake with a huge scoop of ice cream is the last thing I want after a heavy meal. That goes for key lime pie, tiramisu, cheesecake or baked apple crisp with ice cream. For me, the meal was enough to cover what I needed. Yes, I want something a little bit sweet after the meal, like a piece of fruit, a fruit cup or even a small cup of cinnamon apples. But, I don’t need a second 1000+ calorie meal.
Why do they always come with ice cream?
A scoop of ice cream has between 144 and 260 calories just for one scoop. As a whole dessert, for example, Chili’s chocolate molten cake is 1070 calories (according to their nutritional chart). Probably 200+ of that is just the ice cream. 1070 calories is a meal! In fact, it’s more than a meal. But, the added ice cream isn’t necessary. Granted, if you’re planning on splitting the dessert 4 ways, then that’s 250 calories per portion. That’s still a bit high compared to a piece of fruit, but it’s at least manageable. But, eating an entire molten cake yourself is just plain overindulgence.
Consider, though, that ice cream is made from a food designed for infants, not adults. The milk makes that dessert all the worse for your health. Ask your server to skip the ice cream and lose that extra 144-260 calories (and associated unnecessary hormones). Save those calories up for a later meal.
But, it’s so hard to tell the calories in a dessert.
No, it isn’t. Most premade baked desserts are made from processed white flour. White flour creates the most calorie dense baked goods known. So any baked good is at least twice the calories you think that it is. For example, you might tend to think a single fudge brownie is less than 100 calories. Wrong. The average 2″ fudge brownie is 243 calories. One small piece of cake with frosting is about the same as that fudge brownie.
If you still find it hard to determine the calories and you have any brand of smartphone, then visit Google and look up the calories for what you’re about to eat.
Restaurants and Food
The trouble with restaurants is that they know people want unhealthy food. Well, not that people want it unhealthy, they just don’t want it healthy. Granted, places like TGI Fridays and Chili’s don’t exactly serve unhealthy food, they just server you too much of it. So, when it comes to the dessert course, you end up way overeating. You’ve probably overeaten just with the meal alone. Then adding a 1000+ calorie dessert doesn’t do well to keep the weight off and the waistline trim.
Since the 70s, I believe portion sizes have dramatically increased in restaurants. This is true in many cases because Chili’s and TGI Friday’s didn’t exist in the 70s in the way they do today. Their food items have gotten bigger and more dense over the years. Some of it is from the ingredients changing, but others are simple recipe changes.
Let’s make a change
The next time you go into a restaurant and want something sweet after the meal, ask if they offer fruit. It doesn’t matter if they say no, just ask anyway. The more people who ask, the more that will spur restaurants to change their desserts to be more health and calorie conscious.
The next thing you need to consider is eating off of the Kid’s menu. Most kid’s meals are anywhere from 100-350 calories per meal. That’s a far cry from the 800-1600 (average) for an ‘adult’ meal. Although, a half-rack of Chili’s original ribs is 480 calories without sides. Add in broccoli for 50-70 calories and the meal is around 520 calories. That’s actually a reasonable sized meal if you want to also add a dessert.
In this case, if you add a fruit cup, that’s about 100-150 calories. Adding the fruit raises the meal to 620-670 calories which is very reasonable for a single meal. Remember, you will eat 3 meals per day (plus snacks). You don’t need to eat a 2000 calorie meal (1000 main course and 1000 dessert). Consider that an average sized man probably only needs 2000 calories a day with minimal exercise (mostly sedentary). For a man who works out at the gym, runs or does any strenuous exercise, then he will need to eat more than 2000.
So, the more people who ask for healthier dessert alternatives, the better our waistlines will look. But, that also means you need to understand the portion sizes of the meals from restaurants and work around those.
California nutrition guides for restaurants
Now that California has required restaurants to place nutrition guides right on the table, it’s easier than ever to see how much you will be eating in advance. Knowing how a meal is prepared, you can also reduce the calories you consume by requesting higher calorie items be substituted with lower calorie items. For example, instead of fries or a baked potato, ask for broccoli, spinach or a house salad. Although, with a salad you have to be careful. Salad dressings are some of the highest calorie items. So, ask for light and use half as much as you need.
Going back to desserts, these are also listed in the nutrition guide. So, you should plan your meal ahead of time. Look for your entree and determine how many calories it is. Then, look for the dessert and do the same. Add them together and see how many calories both together are. If both together total more than 700, you’re eating too much. Of course, if you’re dining with someone else, consider splitting the dessert in half which halves the calories each person eats for dessert.
Overall, you can eat fewer calories at restaurants by asking for lesser calorie items to replace high calorie items. Like, ask for oil and vinegar for dressing. You can then use very little oil and more vinegar. Ask for colored vegetables (broccoli, carrots, greens, tomatoes) over starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato, corn, corn chips). When grains are served (rice, couscous, etc), ask for less. You can still eat some, just eat less than what they want to give you. Or, leave more on the plate. If you leave this stuff on the plate, then this may also send a message to the kitchen that they are serving too much food. The more they throw away, the more it’s wasteful for them.
Finally, ask for smaller portions. If you know you can’t eat a full sized portion (or it’s simply too many calories), ask for less food. Alternatively, eat from the kid’s menu which offers smaller portions anyway. Also, don’t forget alcocholic beverages, wine, liquor and even sugary soda, coffee and tea. These drinks add significantly to your calorie consumption. So, don’t forget about them.
We can make restaurants change their menus if enough people ask for change. So, ask to talk to the manager and express your concerns. Also, go online and use the ‘ask a question’ or ‘send an email’ link on restaurant web sites. Give feedback on the things you want to see. The more people who ask, the more likely they are to make the change.
Personal dessert favorite
My own personal dessert favorite is frozen fruit. Why? It may sound strange, but it’s the perfect dessert at the end of a meal. It’s low in calories and it’s cold like ice cream (without the cream). So, you get all the benefits of an icy dessert combined with fruit flavors. I sprinkle a bit of stevia on top to sweeten them up a little. Too bad you can’t get this at a restaurant, but it makes a perfect low calorie end to a meal.