Eating with knowledge
Would you be surprised to hear a salad can contain more calories than a burger?
Would it influence your choice if you knew the nutrition information of your food before you ordered?
Eating out can provide a nice break from the kitchen but, if you don’t choose your menu item wisely, you will likely end up taking in way more calories and salt than you expected.
To address this issue, the provincial government is working with the restaurant industry to implement the Informed Dining program.
Participating restaurants provide consumers with easy-to-understand nutrition information, with menus or menu boards displaying the program logo and a statement directing the customer to nutrition information for menu items.
Nutrition information may be provided in menu inserts or will be available upon request.
Standard menu items will have information about the calories and 13 core nutrients found on Canadian food-nutrition labels (total fat, saturated fat, trans-fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, dietary fibre, sugar, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium).
This is a voluntary program, so it is not guaranteed your favourite restaurants will be providing easy access to nutrition information.
As well, the program is new, so it may take some time to catch on — but it’s a step in the right direction to keep consumers informed and influence the restaurant industry to provide healthy choices.
For more information, go online to healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/informed-dining.
For the many times when you do not have access to the nutrition information, here are some tips for making healthier choices when eating out:
• Start right: Avoid high-calorie appetizers like creamy dips, breaded chicken wings and anything deep-fried.
Opt for lower-calorie starters like a broth-based soup or a side salad (no bacon, cheese or croutons). Keep your meal light; decline bread baskets.
• Opt for water: Sugary drinks and alcohol are liquid calories.
A typical 16-ounce serving of regular pop, iced tea or fruit juice will add roughly 200 calories and 11 teaspoons of sugar to your meal.
• Salads should be a healthy choice: Salad entrees that have lots of cheese, bacon and dressing can have more fat and calories than an all-dressed burger.
Some pasta, taco or Asian-noodle salads contain few vegetables and lots of calories.
Opt for a leafy green salad that contains nuts, eggs, legumes, or grilled chicken or fish.
Ask for the dressing on the side.
• Limit the portion size: Most restaurant portion sizes are too big.
Ask to have half the meal plated and half wrapped to take home.
An appetizer and a salad can be a good alternative to a large entree.
Simone Jennings is
a registered dietitian