Would you be surprised to hear that sometimes a salad can contain more calories than a burger? Would it influence your choice if you knew the nutrition information of your food before you ordered? Eating out can provide a nice break from the kitchen, but if you don’t choose your menu item wisely you will likely end up taking in way more calories and salt than you bargained for.
To address this issue the BC government is working with the restaurant industry to implement the ‘Informed Dining Program’. Participating restaurants provide consumers with easy to understand nutrition information at the point of purchase. This means that menus or menu boards will display the Informed Dining logo and a statement directing the customer where to find nutrition information for menu items. Nutrition information may be provided in menu inserts or will be available upon request. Standard menu items will have information about the calories and 13 core nutrients found on standard Canadian food nutrition labels (Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, dietary fibre, sugar, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron and calcium).
The catch is this is a voluntary program so it is not guaranteed that your favourite restaurants will be providing easy access to their nutrition information. As well the program is new so it may take some time to catch on, but it’s a step in the right direction to keep consumers informed and influence the restaurant industry to provide healthy choices. For more information visit http://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/informed-dining
For the many times when you do not have access to the nutrition information, here are some tips for making healthier choices when eating out.
Avoid high calorie appetizers such as creamy dips, breaded chicken wings and anything deep fried. Opt for a lower calorie starter such as a broth based soup or a side salad (no bacon, cheese or croutons).To keep your meal light, say no to the bread basket.
Opt for water:
Sugary drinks and alcohol are liquid calories. A typical 16-ounce (473 ml) serving of regular pop, iced tea or fruit juice will add roughly 200 calories and 11 teaspoons of sugar to your meal.
Salads should be a healthy choice:
Salad entrees that have lots of cheese, bacon and dressing can have more fat and calories than an all-dressed burger. Some pasta, taco or Asian noodle salads contain few vegetables and lots of calories. Opt for a leafy green salad that contains nuts, eggs, legumes, or grilled chicken or fish. Ask for the dressing on the side.
Limit the portion size:
Most restaurant portion sizes are too big! Ask to have half the meal plated and half wrapped to take home. An appetizer and a salad can be a good alternative to a large entrée. You may also consider sharing an entrée and a salad. Many steak dinners weigh eight to ten ounces – a good size for two.
Enjoy your food!
Remember healthy eating is about balance and enjoying what you eat. Follow these tips if you eat out often but remember its fine to indulge sometimes. The key is to make healthy choices about 80% of the time.
Simone Jennings, is a Registered Dietitian for Interior Health