Hidden Calorie Bombs to Avoid at Restaurants

For most of us, going out to eat is a special experience. We’ll try things we ordinarily wouldn’t, both exotic and rich, and we usually don’t have regrets in the morning. But if we’re going to choose which foods are worth the caloric price, we need to know how much that bill is going to be beforehand.

Unfortunately, there is no nutritional data next to the Cordon Bleu so you can only speculate as to how they are preparing food.To help, I hereby present The 5 Most Common Hidden Calorie Bombs:

1. Soups, and in particular anything bisque. People see soup and they think “Oh, that’s got to be healthy.” The reality is that in 90% of restaurant’s soups are loaded with fat and cholesterol. In fact, Quiznos’s Mushroom Bisque has 11 grams of fat per cup. That’s 17% of your RDA.

I wouldn’t label it an empty effort, that’s why restaurant soup is usually so much better than the stuff you make at home. But be aware that substituting soup for a salad is not the healthier choice.

2. The infamous Awesome Blossom. Truth is, no one thinks that a deep fried onion is healthy. But, people don’t realize just how bad it really is. The pieces are so irregular it takes different amounts of time for sections of the same petal to cook. This means that some parts are invariably overcooked. When you overcook deep fried food, all the moisture is released and the oil is let in. That’s why onion blossoms are so much greasier and calorie-laden than say onion rings. In fact, Chili’s Awesome Blossom contains 2,710 calories. Even if you split that 4 ways it’s more than a meal all by itself.

3. Muffins. Sly little muffins. Muffins aren’t the worst thing you can get when you go out, but they seem like they should actually be good for you. They’re like calorie claymores waiting for the unsuspecting morning commuter who missed breakfast. The fact is, however, that a Starbucks Lowfat Apricot Blueberry Muffin muffin contains 380 calories. Yes, that’s the lowfat one. The regular muffins average about 475 calories each. Be wary of muffins, they’re calories in sheep’s clothing.

4. Full meat portions. Over in my burger series I recommend 6 oz. burgers. The reality is that’s a large portion of meat, but you wouldn’t know it if you ordered one in a restaurant today. While the USDA says 4 oz. of meat is one serving, the typical restaurant burger is 8-10 oz. And you can’t even order a steak less than 10 oz. Hell, most restaurants have some gargantuan special 18 oz. steak on the menu. But don’t be fooled by the pervasiveness of these massive meat portions, 4 oz is still the standard. Anything more than 6 should come with a side of Lipitor.

5. Soda. The problem with soda isn’t so much that we don’t know it’s terrible for us, it’s that we don’t know how much of it we’re drinking. Most restaurants want to charge you $2 for it. Since soda is made up of about 5 cents of sugar and water they give you free refills to convince you it’s a good deal. And since you want to get your money’s worth from these suckers, you’re going to keep asking for glass after glass when really one was plenty. You should never plan on having more than one glass, it adds up to too many calories, too quickly, for too little flavor. When have you ever said, “That was such a great restaurant last night, I couldn’t stop drinking their soda.” It’s not worth it.

Have fun when you go out. Indulge. But indulge wisely, know what food is worth it and what food isn’t. Don’t let a hidden calorie bomb blow up your waistline.

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