The New York Times has just posted a very clear picture-it chart of how people get to 2000 calories in a single meal, sometimes even a single dish, without realizing it when they eat out. Not just at Burger King, Denny’s or IHOP, either–some of the upscale chains’ ordinary dishes are just as devastating. If you’re having trouble figuring out your own diet, you might take a look and see What 2,000 Calories Looks Like.
One thing I like about the restaurant-by-restaurant feature is the breakdown of calories for each item in the meal, so you can see how you might do better while eating out.
One obvious takeaway–so to speak–is that fries, shakes, full dinner plates of pasta with cream sauce (or any sauce, really), and slices of cake as big as your head–topped with caramel goo!–are a bad deal for excess calories, lack of nutritional value, and are basically not really necessary.
The other obvious takeaway is that for things like sandwiches, burritos, burgers and similar protein-containing main dishes, you probably don’t want to be eating more than about 500 calories at lunch or maybe 600ish at dinner. Preferably 350-450, to give yourself some room for a salad or fruit. So the hoagies and double cheeseburgers at 900-1100 calories should really be split in two–maybe three. Share one with a friend unless you’re actually a linebacker in training. Or else get rid of the cheese, the excess meat, the bacon, the mayo-based sauces. Go back to a single burger with ketchup and mustard and a couple of pickle slices. And maybe you shouldn’t eat anything else with one of those but a plain apple or orange or some tomatoes or carrot sticks.
The other thing I like is the set of pictures at the bottom–whole days’ worth of decent food from home that are worth 2000 calories per day, and they look a whole lot better than what you get at the restaurants. For the same money or less, and with a microwave, maybe even in less time. A lot more vegetables and fruits, a decent amount of meat and fish and dairy, a lot less in the way of french fries, milkshakes, salad dressing, breadings, special sauces, burger buns and unlimited pasta.