Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Insider’s Guide to Restaurants

For two years during college, I worked in the restaurant industry, working my way up from hostess, to to-go service, and finally to server. And let me tell you, working in a restaurant teaches you a lot! I have so many crazy stories from my restaurant days from my boss getting in a fight with a drunk customer, to a senior citizen choking and dying on a piece of steak right in the restaurant, to a woman flinging her baked potato across the table because it was wrong, to a mom spiking her underage son’s coke practically in front of my eyes. But beyond the crazy stories, memorizing the menu, and learning a lot about human behavior, I actually learned a lot about food (and no, we don’t spit in your food if you send it back, we may mock you and vent, but we don’t spit). Here’s just a few of the things I’ve learned while working in the restaurant industry:

1. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is cooked in butter. So the next time you think you’re being extra healthy by ordering a chicken breast, steamed veggies, and a baked potato with the toppings on the side, think again! The chicken breast is basted in butter, the veggies are soaked in butter, and the jacket of the potato is covered in butter. If you’re really trying to be healthy when you go out to eat then specify that you don’t want the extra butter on your meal. Most of the time, servers are more than happy to ‘86’ (remove) the butter for you.

2. A server’s job is to sell! If a server gets you to order an appetizer and/or dessert then your bill just went up and hopefully so did their tip! I don’t care how sweet and cool your server is their job is to sell you what you don’t need. And a lot of times, it’s hard to say no because people go to restaurants to relax and enjoy food, not to count calories, worry about every bite, and penny pinch. Nevertheless, you should still be weary; the most popular appetizer at the restaurant I worked for has a whopping 3,000 plus calories! Think about it, if a server successfully gets you to order an appetizer, dinner, AND dessert, just imagine how many calories you’re eating!?! It’s astronomical!

3. Nine times out of 10 the most frequent customers are obese. If you don’t believe there is a strong correlation between the amount you eat out and gaining weight, think again! From two years of working in the same restaurant, I can tell you that our ‘regulars’ were usually obese. And, really it isn’t rocket science. When you go out to eat versus cooking dinner, even if you order what you would cook at home anyways, the restaurant meal has 10x the amount of calories, fat, and sodium than the home-cooked meal does. Plus, you end up eating things you probably wouldn’t have eaten at home. Say you planned on cooking up sirloin steaks with veggies and a baked potato at home, would you necessarily pair that with a loaf of bread, Caesar salad, bottle of wine, and then finish the night off with dessert? Probably not, unless it was a special occasion or you were entertaining company. So imagine if you’re doing this once a week, or even twice a week at a restaurant? It adds up!

4. On a similar note, ‘regulars’ who have kids tend to also have obese kids. I was astonished at what parents would let their kids order when they were out to eat. One kid’s mom let him have three or four refills of coke. One parent convinced their kid to choose an even worse dinner than she originally wanted. This little girl wanted to order macaroni and cheese (which, is still ridiculously high in fat and calories), but her mom convinced her to get fried chicken fingers with French fries and ranch dressing, which is even worse! I just felt so bad for these kids when I worked in a restaurant. The choices these parents let their kids make, or made for their kids, do nothing but contribute to their obesity and declining health. Chilis chicken crispers for kids have a whopping 600 calories, 39 grams of fat, and 1,610 milligrams of sodium! Adults shouldn’t even consume this kind of meal on a regular basis, let alone kids!

5. Even those so called “healthy” meals on the menu aren’t that great. Cheesecake Factory’s Weight Management Grilled Chicken entrée still has 580 calories and 13 grams of fat. I could make grilled chicken at home, with a baked potato with a tablespoon of butter, and a side of asparagus for roughly 375 calories. So please, don’t be deceived by restaurants’ “healthy” menus. In all honesty, most restaurant items should have the nutrition facts of the so called “healthy” items and not even be labeled “healthy” because they’re still not that great. I guess it’s all relative though. If you’re out at Cheesecake Factory, the weight management chicken looks mighty healthy when you compare it to its Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken, which comes in at a whopping 1249 calories and 30 grams of fat. It’s pretty pathetic that the 1249-calorie chicken makes the 580-calorie chicken look healthy because neither is really that great! Personally, I’d rather stay in, make my 375-calorie chicken dinner and enjoy a glass of wine and strawberries with some whipped cream for dessert all for less than 550 calories.

The lesson here is to be mindful when you eat out. Trust me, I love eating out. It’s great to have someone serve you, not have to worry about cleaning up after dinner, and eating food you wouldn’t normally cook at home. I totally understand the appeal! But, if you’re really trying to watch what you eat, you need to either cut back on how often you eat out or be very specific with your server about what you do and don’t want in your meal. And trust me, cutting back on how often you eat out is a lot easier than going to a restaurant and making the healthy choice. For me, it’s real easy to tell myself all day that I’m not going to eat that bad when I go out to eat, but in all honesty the second I step into a restaurant my self control goes right out the window!

Also remember, if you do have kids, really be careful about eating out too often because kids’ menus are really pretty disturbing! Remember, your kids are not old enough to always understand the consequences of their decisions. They often turn to YOU, their parents, to help them make good choices because they value your opinion. So please, help them make the good choices when it comes to food. Most restaurants post nutrition facts on their websites. It is not a bad idea to scan the menu before dinning out to help your family make the right choices.

No comments:

Post a Comment