Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lighter Menus

Last night, being Saturday night, my husband suggested we go out to dinner. Never one to turn down such an offer, I readily agreed. But immediately after saying yes, my thoughts turned to where, because where is an important factor when you're calorie counting. Luckily, right down the road is a Chili's Grill & Bar, and since my husband is also calorie counting these days, that was a great choice for us.

Like an increasing number of chain restaurants, Chili's offers a small section of its menu as lighter fare. The "Guiltless Grill" offers four entrees that include chicken, vegetarian, and fish. Granted, four doesn't sound like much, and it isn't, but if you go to Chili's website and click on the menu, at the very bottom there is the link to nutritional information for its entire menu. Everything offered in the restaurant is listed and you can then find what suits your taste and your calorie allowance. I will add that on the selection I made, the Guiltless Grill Chicken Sandwich, the restaurant menu says 490 calories, whereas my favorite calorie counting book, The Calorie King's Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counter, lists the same entree at a higher 535 calories. Such discrepancies do happen sometimes. For my money, I'm going with the menu listing, and not just because the number is lower. The booklet I have is 2 years old, there might have been an ingredient change since then that has lowered the calories. It's also possible that it's a typo. And finally, it's my understanding Calorie King gets their information from the restaurant chain, so why not go by the original source? If the menu gave the calorie count as higher than listed in the booklet, I would still go with the menu listing.

Other restaurant chains are beginning to offer lighter fare listed on their in-store menus, too so you can know at a glance and make an informed choice. (If in doubt as to whether the calories listed include everything on the plate as in the sides too, your server should know.) They include: Applebee's, Red Lobster, La Madeleine, Smoothie King, Luby's, and even Carvel ice cream stores. And of course, thanks to Jared, everybody knows about Subway. Restaurants owners are realizing that while there is a part of their customer base that still wants the biggest food serving of what ever they can get because they think it gives them better value, there is a growing number of customers who want lighter more normal servings with the nutrition information posted either right on the menu or at least on the restaurant website. By picking a place that offers lower calorie entrees, or taking the time for just a little research before you go, you can easily find something that fits your daily allowance so you can have just as good of a time as everybody else at the table!

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