Within the past couple of years, increased focus has been given to the calorie content of the meals we eat at restaurants and fast food outlets.  In an attempt to help in the fight against obesity and overweight, lawmakers have slowly been putting into effect a law that requires restaurants with more than twenty chains to post the calorie content of their menu items for customers to see.  States like New York and California have already done so, and other cities and states are following quickly.  Initially, the idea was this: Most Americans underestimate the number of calories in their food.  So, if customers can see the calorie content of their food options, they will realize how much they will consume in one sitting and, as a result, will opt for a lower-calorie selection.  Essentially, we see the numbers, we’re shocked, and we make a smart decision.

According to an article from the Obesity Action Coalition, however, success has not been that great.  It seems that the posting of calorie content has not led to an overwhelming shift towards lower-calorie and healthier options.  Why?  Incentives!  Restaurants, particularly fast food chains, offer deals of great value to their customers, where a little bit of extra money gets a lot more food.  If it makes financial sense, many of us do it.  That, unfortunately, is bad news for our waistlines.  Americans eat out more than any other country in the world.  Translation: Lots of calories!

Many restaurants now offer lighter options that are aimed at those of us who do pay attention to calorie counts and try to eat healthy when ordering out.  As it turns out, putting up calorie counts is not enough, not only because most people ignore them, but because they are often not an accurate reflection of the nutritional content of a food.  Meaning what?

Two items come in at 700 calories.  One is high in fat and low in fiber.  The other is low in saturated fat, has a healthy amount of unsaturated fat, and is high in fiber.  Which is the smarter pick?  The latter.  Can you tell from the menu?  No.  So how can you really make smart choices when you’re out if going by calorie counts can be deceiving?


Read the description of a menu item to see what it contains.  If it seems to be high in vegetables/fruits, proteins, and/or whole grains, it may be a smart option.  To be sure, though, ask the restaurant staff how its cooked (if not mentioned) and whether oil or butter are used in its preparation.  At fast food outlets, make sure the foods you order are not deep fried, covered in cheese, or otherwise loaded with empty calories.  Do your research before you go and when you’re there.  That way you will ensure that your weight loss goals are not in jeopardy.

If you’d like to learn more about how to eat smart at restaurants, talk to your weight loss coach at Florida Aesthetics today!