Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are Restaurant Meals Behind the Obesity Epidemic?

(Article first published as Restaurants Could Hold the Key to Weight Loss Success, or Failure? on Technorati.)
Everybody likes to eat out. The typical American family eats between 4 and 7 meals away from home each week and many experts agree that this is one of the reasons for the obesity epidemic. Meals prepared by a chef or even a fast food restaurant are notoriously high in calories, fat, sugar and salt.

If the meal wasn’t to your liking, you wouldn’t patronize the restaurant in the future, so it’s in their best interest to serve the largest portions that appeal to your innate taste for food bursting with flavor. Meals eaten away from home pack on twice the calories as food you prepare in your own kitchen. When surveyed, chefs agree they could trim the calories and still prepare great tasting food.

Chefs Could Trim 10 to 25% From a Typical Meal
The results of a survey conducted by Penn State researchers demonstrate that there is room to cut calories without sacrificing taste and customer loyalty. 72% of the chefs surveyed indicated that they could trim 10% of the calories without any difference in meal appeal while 21% said they could cut a quarter of the calories with no difference in taste. Considering the number of meals eaten at restaurants each week by the typical patron, this could result in hundreds or thousands of fewer calories and significant weight loss.

Chefs Largely Unaware of Calorie Content
The pressing question is why chefs wouldn’t make changes to reduce the calorie burden of their meals. That question was posed as part of the survey and the researchers found that 7% had no idea of the number of calories in their recipes and another 49% were only somewhat familiar.

The survey authors concluded "If a large number of chefs don't know the calorie content of their food, they will be limited in their ability to modify what they serve to guests". Chefs indicated they were more than willing to create new recipes with lower calorie counts, but were hesitant to modify their existing signature food items as they feared they may downgrade their reputation.

People Don’t Want Low Calorie Options When Dining Out
A reduced calorie or low carb menu has been tried before and most restaurants have found that these items are the “kiss of death”. When rating the obstacles to increasing the selections of healthy foods on their menu, 32% of chefs indicated that low consumer demand was the key reason. Another reason was the higher cost of the ingredients.

The Customer is King
The bottom line is you are in control of the foods you eat and how much excess fat you carry. If a low calorie option is not on a menu, you have to ask for it. Most restaurants will make the necessary changes to accommodate your needs. Choose a large salad as your entre and add grilled shrimp or chicken for protein. Dress with olive oil and vinegar and a little lemon for a fresh burst of flavor. It’s best to avoid bread, fried offerings and dessert.

Restaurant dining can be added near the top of the list of contributing factors to our obesity epidemic. These meals contain twice the calorie content as a home prepared meal and 3 to 4 times the number of calories that should be consumed at one meal. When making the choice to dine out, be mindful of healthy options and ask to have a meal prepared with your needs in mind. While most chefs don’t have your health interests in mind, you can take charge and use dining away from home to your weight loss advantage.

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

should be careful about calories and obesity-causing and can cause heart problems, therefore it is advisable to take precautions to better health care.

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