Nutrition 101: How Healthy Are Restaurant Meals Really?

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When we eat out, the food is often prepared by someone who spends hours making sure it’s just right. But are those restaurant meals healthy? In this article, we’ll look at what’s healthy and what’s not in a restaurant meal as well as how to make good choices when ordering out.

What’s Healthy and What’s Not?

There are three main nutrients that affect our health: fat, sugar and salt. Foods with a lot of these are often high in calories.

Fat-containing foods include butter, margarine, lard and oils like sunflower oil. They can be high in saturated fats which can raise your cholesterol levels if you eat too much of them – this isn’t good for your heart health.

Sugar occurs naturally in foods such as fruit, but it’s also added to many processed products as well as being used for preserving them so be careful about how much sugar you add to your diet by choosing healthier options instead, when possible, e.g., brown rice instead of white rice, wholemeal bread instead of white bread etc.

Salt is found naturally in most foods, but some people add extra salt because it makes their food taste better – however too much salt isn’t good for us so try to avoid adding more than needed when cooking or eating cooked meals out at restaurants where they may have added extra during preparation!

Do Restaurant Meals Have To Be Unhealthy?

If you’ve ever ordered a meal at a restaurant, hopefully you know that there are healthy and unhealthy options. However, if you haven’t been paying attention or just had your mind on other things, it can be easy to get stuck with something on your plate that doesn’t align with your goals.

There are some great ways to make sure that your next restaurant experience is healthy and satisfying. Here are some tips:

  • Choose lean protein sources such as fish or chicken over beef or pork. Many of these options will come grilled rather than fried—but even if they don’t, opt for grilled over fried!
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined carbs like white bread and pasta. Whole grains provide more fibre, vitamins and minerals than processed foods do. Plus, they fill you up faster, so you won’t feel tempted to order dessert afterwards (which is usually loaded with sugar).
  • Choose vegetables over potatoes when possible; this way you get extra nutrients without adding unnecessary calories from fat (potatoes are starchy foods). If fries sound good (and sometimes they do), go for the salad instead! Fries contain trans fats which contribute to high cholesterol levels; salads have far fewer calories than fries but also deliver more fibre, so they fill us up better too!

Are All Calories Created Equal?

You’d think that the simple act of eating a meal would be the same across the board. Eat too many calories, and you gain weight. But as it turns out, not all calories are created equal.

“It’s not just about how many calories you eat,” says Dr. David Ludwig, a professor at Harvard Medical School and author of Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells & Lose Weight Permanently. “It’s also about what those calories are made of.”

The amount of energy in food is measured in kilocalories (or “calories”)—the same way cars run on gasoline or homes run on electricity. For example: 1-pound equals 3,500 kcal; that means if your body burns 3,500 kcal more than it consumes each day (i.e., you’re on a diet), then you’ll lose one pound per week; if your body burns 7 kcal more than it consumes each day (i.e., you’re gaining weight), then you’ll gain one pound per week; etc etc ad nauseam until we both get bored talking about math!

Does Portion Size Matter?

Portion sizes vary from restaurant to restaurant, and even city to city. In the United States, a standard portion of French fries is considered to be about one cup—which is about the size of a baseball. By contrast, in Japan, it’s common for people to eat their fries in small bite-sized pieces rather than in big servings.

In addition, portion sizes can be misleading because they don’t always match up with calories on a menu or food label. This is especially true when you consider that some restaurants offer “meal deals,” where you get more food (and thus calories) for less money!

In general, though, if you’re trying to eat healthy at a restaurant then keep your meals simple: avoid fried foods whenever possible; order grilled instead of fried meats; choose sauces made from vegetables rather than cream; and ask your waiter or waitress how much salt was used in preparation of your meal so that you can make an informed decision about how much salt intake is right for you.

Should You Avoid Carbs?

In the past, carbs were often vilified. But experts now know that carbohydrates—even refined ones like white bread and pasta—are an important part of a healthy diet. That’s because they provide energy and fibre (a nutrient that promotes digestive health).

Carbohydrates are also found in vegetables and fruit. “There are many healthy sources,” says Mary Bess Williams, RDN, author of Eat Right When Time is Tight: A Weeknight-Friendly Cookbook for Busy People Who Love Food! “You don’t need to cut out all carbs to be healthy.”

If you’re watching your weight, it’s okay to include carbs as part of your balanced diet; just make sure they’re not taking up too much room on your plate. “The majority of calories should come from foods like lean protein,” says registered dietitian Jessica Cording, author of The Little Book Of Healthy Recipes For Two. However, if you’re actively trying to lose weight, then eating more whole grains rather than refined ones might help keep you satisfied longer with fewer calories (though this isn’t true for everyone).

The Number of Calories Consumed Is Important for Weight Loss

One of the first questions people ask when they start a weight loss programme is, “What can I eat?” And it’s an important one. You might be surprised to learn that calories are not necessarily the most important part of a healthy diet for weight loss. The amount of food you eat is also important. We’ll explain why, but first let’s take a closer look at what calories really mean and how they relate to food intake and your body’s metabolism.

Calories are units of energy found in various foods and beverages. They measure how much energy your body gets from what you eat and drink, so having enough calories isn’t just about maintaining your weight; it’s also needed for daily activities like walking around or lifting things up!


Remember, while certain foods are more nutritious than others, there is no single “best” diet. The best diet for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you’re looking to lose weight or improve your health, it’s important to consider the balance of calories in the foods and beverages you consume.

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