Last week I wrote a post about my encounter with a 35 Point Salad at a restaurant. The offending salad was the Grilled Oriental Chicken Salad at Applebee’s. That experience got me to thinking. How often are we fooled when we are out in a restaurant and order up a salad? How often are we allowing ourselves to be tricked into believing that we are making a healthy choice?
As a result of this experience I decided to start a series on my blog about restaurants, and how we can make healthy and informed choices when we are out. I am not intending to do an exhaustive analysis of every menu item, but I will hit on some highlights. For each restaurant I research I will focus first on the entree salads they offer, then give my thoughts on which are the best choices. I will also highlight other things on the menu that might sound like they are less healthy, but in actuality might be better alternatives.
Because of my recent experience, I am starting with Applebee’s. Today I went to the Applebee’s website and looked up the nutrition information for their entree salads. Here is what I found:
For my analysis I looked at the calories, fat, carbs, fiber, protein, sodium and sugar. I then calculated the Weight Watchers Points Plus for each dish. The colors are my evaluation of how good or bad the choices are.
I looked at the sodium levels and compared them to what the Mayo Clinic recommends. According to the Mayo Clinic, an adult over 51 should not have more than 1,500mg of sodium in an entire day (for adults under 51 the number is 2,300mg). Those that are red represent more sodium than the recommended amount for my entire day. Those in yellow are dangerously close.
For sugar I looked at the World Health Organization that for an adult with a normal BMI (which mine is not), the limit should be about 25mg per day. Those that are red exceed that amount, those that are yellow are dangerously close.
The two salads that had the lowest Weight Watchers Points Plus are the Grilled Chicken Ceasar without dressing at 9 points, followed by the Thai Shrimp Salad from their Have it All menu, which came in at 10 points. However, when sugar and sodium are taken into account, the Thai Shrimp Salad fails miserably.
For a salad entree at Applebee’s, my best bet would have been the Grilled Chicken Ceasar without dressing.
I wanted to know what other healthy choices were on their menu, so here is a look a the information for their full Have it All menu
As it turns out, all of the choices on this menu are high in sodium. No real surprise there, because they are lower fat and lower sugar, they make up the taste with salt. What is interesting is that the best choice on this menu, and likely on their entire menu, was The Pepper-Crusted Sirloin & Whole Grains. At 9 Weight Watchers Points it was the best choice I could have made. Oh, that’s right, it WAS THE CHOICE I MADE! But, they were out of it.
Just for fun, I looked up a dessert. Here is the line for the Triple Chocolate Meltdown
So, what does this all mean? I think first it means that we have to be ever vigilant about what we eat. Just because something sounds healthy doesn’t mean that it is. We are naturally inclined to think in terms of salads being the best choice, but they are not always.
The other thing I learned is to trust my instincts. My first instinct was to order the Pepper-Crusted Sirloin & Whole Grains. When it wasn’t available, my best option would have been to get up and dine elsewhere, but the person I was with might not have gone for that idea. My next best option would have been the third thing I learned.
I have the Weight Watchers app on my phone, and I should have looked up my food before I ordered. I am always better off when I am prepared and have done my homework.
What do you think of this analysis? Is it helpful? I am thinking of doing one analysis like this each week for major chain restaurants. I am not looking to replace the “Eat this not That!” concept. Rather I am looking to give my thoughts on things as I go.