Friday, February 18, 2011

Your average meal

Some estimates suggest that your average restaurant dish contains twice as many calories as should be consumed in one sitting. After writing my previous post on Boston Pizza's misleading nutritional guide, I decided to sit down with it and determine how much I used to consume when I ate there.

When I used to eat out, I treated it as a one time indulgence, even if it happened once a week. So I would have an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. And if I didn't know better, I would still do that, as do many others. When I see other diners eat at restaurants, this is the behavior they demonstrate. And I suspect this is the eating pattern of most North Americans, 75% of whom eat out roughly once per week, if not more. So how many calories would I consume if I ordered what I WANT to order at Boston Pizza?

Cactus Cut Potatoes (shared with one other person)
415 calories
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich
910 calories
Side order of fries
250 calories
Chocolate Brownie Pudding with Ice Cream
570 calories

Total caloric consumption=2145 calories
More than 500 calories over my entire DAILY limit

Even just with the sandwich and fries I'd be almost at my daily limit

Now, in fairness to Boston Pizza, they do have some healthy choices, and they even label the caloric content of their Delicious Alternatives Menu right in the menu. Some of their moderate-calorie choices are even surprising, like the Baked Seven Cheese Ravioli that rings in at 470 calories. The real problem with their food is not the food itself, but the serving sizes.

I've watched my father-in-law polish off the Boston Smoky Mountain Spaghetti & Meatballs. It is an absurd amount of food. To be fair to him, he is chronically normal weight and can't seem to gain weight even if he tries. But most people aren't blessed that way. If they polished it off they'd consume 1800 calories. The average individuals daily caloric limit.

So, as with any other restaurant excursion, here are some rules to consider:

1. No appies and no desserts.
2. No alcoholic drinks or pop. Stick with water or coffee.
3. Have half of your main dish packed up right away.

Of course, that doesn't mean you can indulge on truly special occasions like your birthday or anniversary. But if you are looking at weight control or weight loss, it better not be too often. And for those of you who think you can exercise your way out of this one, think again.

If I ate what I wanted to, I would have consumed 1600 calories more than I intended. To burn that amount off with exercise that I enjoy, say, jogging, I would have to go for a 6 mph run for 2 hours. Good luck with that.

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