Friday, August 12, 2011

10 Best New Restaurant Meals

Quickie quiz: How healthy is your diet?

A. Extremely healthy. Even my Twinkies are grass-fed.
B. Somewhat healthy. I no longer buy Five Guys Burgers. Now I only buy Four Guys Burgers.
C. Not at all healthy. My dinner plate looks like Dick Cheney’s aorta.

Consumer Reports recently asked more than 1,200 people the same question, and 90 percent ranked their diet somewhere between "somewhat" and "extremely" healthy. (Which sounds promising, until you realize that 90 percent of Americans also rank themselves as “above average” drivers!)

In truth, most of us believe we’re eating healthier than we are. Being truly aware of what we eat is one of the biggest challenges we face, especially in a culture that thinks a “value meal” is one in which we pay more hard-earned cash for more empty, fat-generating calories. In fact, additional empty calories are the curse of would-be healthy eating. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that between 1977 and 1996, the average soft drink grew by 34 percent, the average cheeseburger increased by 39 percent, and the average salty snack expanded by a full 70 percent. Restaurants, to justify higher prices, have spent years adding increasingly more food to our plates. We stuff our bellies, and they stuff their wallets. They become fat cats, and try to turn us into fatsos.

And even healthy-sounding restaurant foods often harbor hundreds—if not thousands—of hidden calories from sugar, butter, cream, and oil. If there’s an opportunity to make something sweeter or richer, restaurants take it. That's how an innocuous-sounding item like a Chicken & Spinach Salad, which you'll find on IHOP's menu, packs in 1,600 calories and 118 grams of fat.

Fortunately, over the past few years, things have started to improve. Since 2008, Eat This, Not That! has been holding restaurants accountable by publishing their most egregious items and calling them out for nefarious practices. And a lot of them have responded by adding new, healthier options to their menus—foods that are just as filling, just as tasty, but a heck of a lot healthier. Here's how you can strip away 10, 20, 30 pounds or more just by sampling the best new foods from your favorite restaurants.

One more thing: Canadian researchers found that receiving daily nutrition and weight loss advice will keep your diet extremely healthy—and your belly slim. If you don't have a nutritionist on your personal payroll, do the next best thing: Get free instant belly-melting secrets every day by following me here on Twitter, or sign up for our free daily Eat This, Not That! newsletter.
#1: Best new food at T.G.I. Friday’s
Black Angus Sirloin Japanese Hibachi Skewers
660 calories
22 g fat (5 g saturated)
1,690 mg sodium

Not That!
Jack Daniels Ribs
1,640 calories
66 g fat (22 g saturated)
1,880 mg sodium

Hit the JD sauce on T.G.I.'s Jack Daniels Ribs and you’re likely to develop a hangover—the kind that might eventually droop over your belt buckle. In addition to the egregious load of saturated fat, these ribs pack in 177 grams of carbohydrates. (That’s as many carbs as you’d find in 21 Oreos, my friend.) Fortunately, TGI Friday’s Right Portion, Right Price menu allows you to order modest portions of savory foods, and not one item has more than 750 calories. The Hibachi Skewers, if you were to order them off the regular menu, would stick you with more than 1,500 calories. Go with the downsized version and bank the savings.
#2: Best new food at Starbucks
Chicken & Hummus Bistro Box
270 calories
8 g fat (1 g saturated)
520 mg sodium
Not That!
Egg Salad Sandwich

490 calories

22 g fat (4.5 g saturated)
850 mg sodium
Once you get past the pastries and syrup-spiked coffee drinks, the nutritional pitfalls on Starbucks’menu are relatively few. That's why it's such a surprising delight to see the new line of bistro boxes, which further expand the chain's conscientious food menu. Bistro Boxes are nutrition-loaded packages stuffed with flavorful foods like chicken, salsa, hummus, cheeses, and dark chocolate. Think of them as lunch boxes for adults and the perfect excuse to never again order a muffin, scone, or coffee cake.
BEVERAGE BLUNDERS: Too bad Starbucks' drinks aren't as commendable as the food. To see where the coffee king falls in the heirarchy of liquid offenders, check out this eye-popping list of The 20 Worst Drinks in America.
#3: Best new food at Carl’s Jr.
Teriyaki Turkey Burger
470 calories
14 g fat (5 g saturated)
1,120 mg sodium

Not That!
Single Teriyaki Burger
630 calories
29 g fat (11 g saturated fat)
1,060 mg sodium

The best part about Carl’s Jr.’s new line of turkey burgers is that they're loaded with big-flavor toppings that make them every bit as indulgent as the fatty beef burgers they replace. Even with ingredients like guacamole, mayonnaise, and teriyaki sauce, each burger manages to slide in with fewer than 500 calories. The teriyaki burger pictured here is topped with a thick slab of grilled pineapple, a rarity among restaurant burgers that delivers a kick of bromelain, a network of enzymes that might help ease joint pain and battle inflammation.
#4: Best new food at IHOP
Simple & Fit Spinach, Mushroom & Tomato Omelette with Fresh Fruit
330 calories
12 g fat (4.5 g saturated)
690 mg sodium

Not That!
Spinach & Mushroom Omelette with Fresh Fruit
990 calories
70 g fat (26 g saturated)
1,570 mg sodium

IHOP's Simple & Fit menu is a vast improvement on the butter- and oil-heavy foods that populate the regular menu. Not one item eclipses 600 calories, yet they still provide the classic diner fare you expect from the baron of pancakes. For the classic veggie omelette, IHOP managed to slash two-thirds of the calories and 21.5 grams of saturated fat primarily by omitting the hollandaise sauce. By making this Eat This, Not That!-style smart swap just once a week, you’ll shed nearly 10 pounds within a year--without dieting!
#5: Best new food at Cosi
Lighter Side Chicken Tandoori Sandwich
376 calories
3 g fat (1 g saturated)
889 mg sodium

Not That!
Chicken TBM Melt
693 calories
31 g fat (15 g saturated)
570 mg sodium

Cosi’s menu can be tricky to gauge. For every decent option, there’s a healthful-sounding item bloated with excessive calories. The Lighter Side menu provides much-needed reprieve from the nutritional crapshoot. Use it to protect you from secretly dangerous grilled chicken sandwiches like this one, which has more saturated fat than four McDonald's Hamburgers.
TOP 20 NEW TERRIBLE FOODS! Some restaurant foods have an entire day's worth of calories and several days' worth of fat and salt. Avoid this shocking Eat This, Not That! report on dietary restaurant disasters: The Worst Foods in America!
#6: Best new food at Denny'sFit Slam (egg whites scrambled with spinach and tomatoes, turkey bacon, English muffin, and fruit)
390 calories
12 g fat (4 g saturated)
850 mg sodium

Not That!
Grand Slamwich with hash browns
1,520 calories
101 g fat (44 g saturated)
3,550 mg sodium

Denny’s classic menu delivers all the blights of typical diner food—excessive fats, starches, and sodium. But to accommodate healthier eaters, the chain now offers a Fit Fare menu. It covers breakfast, sure, but it also features lunch and dinner entrĂ©es. Items like Tilapia Ranchero and the new Chicken Avocado Sandwich are far leaner than the calorie-dense foods on the restaurant’s regular menu. All Fit Fare items meet two of the following criteria: They have fewer than 550 calories, have more than 20 grams of protein, have more than 8 grams of fiber, and contain fewer than 15 grams of fat.
THE WORST PART OF WAKING UP: The only thing worse than skipping breakfast? Starting your day with one of these 20 Worst Breakfasts in America!
#7: Best new food at McDonald's
McDonald’s McNugget Happy Meal with mini-fries, apples, and low-fat milk
410 calories
19 g fat (4.5 g saturated)
560 mg sodium

Not That!
Double Cheeseburger Mighty Kids Meal with small fries and a 16-ounce soda
820 calories
34 g fat (12 g saturated, 1.5 g trans)
1,350 mg sodium

Right now the average Happy Meal has just over 500 calories. Starting in September, the average meal will be closer to 400. The reason is this: McDonald’s recently unveiled a plan to replace half the Happy Meal’s fries with fresh apples. To put that in perspective, if you could cut your child's intake by 100 calories every day between the ages of 8 and 13, he or she would enter the teen years more than 50 pounds lighter. That’s the difference between a normal-weight and obese teenager.
#8: Best new food at Cheesecake FactorySkinnyLicious Petite Grilled Beef Tenderloin
585 calories
38 g fat (15 g saturated)
951 mg sodium

Not That!
Petite Filet
1,060 calories
63 g fat (21 g saturated)
2,169 mg sodium

Cheesecake Factory has long been the biggest calorie offender in the restaurant industry, but the chain is now making strides to balance its menu with reasonable food. The new SkinnyLicious menu rolls out this month and features more than 40 items with fewer than 590 calories. The chain remains tight-lipped about the nutritional information for the rest of its menu, but at least we finally have a way to minimize the damage.
#9: Best new food at Applebee's
Asiago Peppercorn Steak with herb potatoes and seasonal vegetables
380 calories
14 g fat (6 g saturated)
1,520 mg sodium

Not That!
12-oz New York Strip with loaded baked potato and vegetables
1,125 calories
74 g fat (38 g saturated, 3.5 g trans)
1,310 mg sodium

The USDA recommendation for daily meat consumption is 5.5 ounces, so a 12-ounce steak is a massive portion no matter how you slice it. The Asiago Peppercorn Steak weighs in at a reasonable 7 ounces, and for that, it shaves nearly 750 calories off Applebee's New York Strip. Credit goes to Applebee’s Under 550 Calories menu, which features five savory dishes like sirloin, teriyaki shrimp, and grilled chicken topped with portobello mushrooms.
#10: Best new food at Ruby Tuesday
Barbecue Grilled Chicken with white cheddar mashed potatoes and broccoli
591 calories
23 g fat
1,658 mg sodium

Not That!
Fresh Grilled Chicken Sandwich
856 calories
41 g fat
1,566 mg sodium

Traditional restaurant techniques make certain that not even grilled chicken sandwiches are safe. Fortunately Ruby Tuesday has a Fit & Trim line that features more than a dozen items with fewer than 700 calories. And we’re not talking bean sprouts and rice cakes. Ruby’s leaner menu features sirloin, shrimp scampi, and this barbecue chicken, which is as lean and healthy as anything you’d make on your own grill.
A WEIGHT-LOSS MUST READ: Turn these "get-fat" habits into your new "slim-down" habits, and watch the your belly disappear! Check out the Top 20 Habits That Make You Fat!
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