Restaurant Woes?

So when I’m home on breaks, I work in the snackbar of a retailer that is similar to Walmart, but has red stuff instead of blue stuff. Bet you could never guess what store that is.

Anyway, I was thinking about the types of foods that we sell and how I would have eaten very differently there in the past and how the calories could have quickly added up for seemingly not that bad things. For example, our soft pretzels have around 500 calories and the cheese sauce to dip them in has 80. That is more than most meals I eat – and that would have been a snack for on break! Ouch!

In general, though, I think that fast food gets a bad rap. It is true that it is very very easy to make bad choices and gain a lot of weight from fast food. At my previous workplace, I would often eat 2-3 times during my shift (usually 9 hours) and drink 2-3 lattes, mochas, or milkshakes. I was a manager, so I had a ton of free food privileges and really took advantage of them. However, I have been able to eat healthy and lose weight while working at two fast food restaurants (I simply chose to give up in the past). In fact, I find it very easy to do this at most places – it is sit down restaurants where I have more trouble. Why is fast food so easy for me? What are some good choices to make?

  • Many of them have been pushed to provide healthy choices due to their bad reputation for healthiness. They often have things like salads, yogurt, fruit, and grilled chicken available (though you have to be careful with just assuming these are healthy – I’ve seen yogurt parfaits with more granola than I eat in a week).
  • A lot of them now provide calorie counts right on the menu! I know that McDonald’s and Panera at least do this (McDonald’s even has a nice thing on their counters that lists choices under different calorie counts). Wendy’s and Subway don’t put it on everything, but I have seen things like “here are some choices with under 600 calories and 7g of fat” at most locations. This is actually my biggest issue with sit down restaurants – if it’s not a chain, there is no nutritional info and I have to guess. Even if it is a chain, the info is not always transparent. For example, they might have a “under 650 calorie” menu but not tell you what the actual calorie count (or any other nutrition info) is.
  • A la carte healthy options can often be much cheaper than the “value” meals. A “regular” sized soda, drink and fry is often far  more expensive than a salad by itself or a couple of small items like a grilled chicken sandwich and a cup of yogurt.

My biggest tips would be to always check the nutrition information before ordering and to try to stick to “real” foods. I’m not big on caring whether food is “real” vs. processed or not in general, but I find that somehow restaurants seem to magically insert tons of extra calories into processed things that otherwise would not have that many calories. For example, I’m still trying to figure out exactly how the cookies at work have 500 calories (I do occasionally splurge on half a cookie, because they taste awesome). You still need to check the nutrition info before ordering, though! I once ordered a meal (to be fair, this was at a sit down restaurant, and I should have known because they have a “healthy” menu and this wasn’t on it) that consisted of a whole wheat wrap filled with ham, cheese, vegetables, and egg with a side of fresh fruit. This was somehow like 900 calories! What on earth?!

Now if only we could get my favorite Mexican places to actually tell me how many calories are in a chimichanga….

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