What does the restaurant industry have to hide? A lot, apparently. A hidden force behind America's obesity epidemic is the fact that many chain restaurants—which provide one-third of all restaurant meals, according to the New York Department of Health—obfuscate the fat and calorie counts of their menu items, and fight any attempt to shed light on what, exactly, is going on between their buns and inside their taco shells.
Not That were shocked by how far restaurants were willing to go to hide their nutritional info from our prying eyes. So when David Zinczenko & coauthor Matt Goulding conducted their own scientific testing, consulted with nutrition experts, and they did some good old-fashioned snooping. In the end, they uncovered countless secrets these mega-restaurateurs had been keeping. The 16 most mind-blowing are below, but they just scratch the surface, really.
Since then they have published a book called Eat This, Not That hit the bookstores in December 2007, and it's become a bestseller. And, in one city anyway, the hide-the-calories game has gotten a bit tougher—a new law in New York City compels restaurants to list calorie data. (Similar legislation was first passed in 2006, but only took effect in June because it had to survive several legal challenges from—you guessed it—the restaurant industry.) But, for the most part, little has changed.
Outback Steakhouse doesn't want you to know:
That the only nutritional information it provides is for its Tangy Tomato Dressing. When we contacted the company, a spokesperson claimed, "Ninety percent of our meals are prepared by hand...Any analysis would be difficult to measure consistently." Yet no fewer than 45 national chain restaurants do just that. (Hey, in case you were wondering, an order of Outback's Aussie Cheese Fries has 2,900 calories, and its Ayers Rock Strip has 60 grams of fat.)
That many of its "low-fat" items have more than 500 calories. (In fact, its low-fat chicken quesadillas have 742 calories and 90 grams of carbohydrates per order.)
That its Omelet Feast has 1,335 calories and 35 grams of saturated fat. (By the time you finish eating this behemoth breakfast, you'll have consumed 150 percent of your daily fat requirement and 300 percent of your suggested cholesterol intake.) Said IHOP's director of communications, "We do not maintain nutritional data on our menu items, so I am unable to assist you."
The nutritional impact of its gourmet burgers. "A gourmet burger starts by being an honest burger," Red Robin's Web site declares — but not, apparently, a burger that will come clean about its nutrition facts. When contacted, Red Robin's senior vice president responded that nutritional information for the menu would be available in October 2007. As of December, however, nutrition facts were still not posted on the site. Another public-relations representative e-mailed us to request this: "As this information is not yet public, can you please confirm that this will not be leaked?" Uh, no.
Anything about what's in its food. Although chains such as Chili's and Uno Chicago Grill divulge the thousands of calories in their chicken wings, Hooters blames its nutritional-disclosure negligence on its expansive menu, which contains about 25 entrees: "Because of the millions of combinations available and our desire to frequently give you new menu options, it is impossible to provide accurate nutritional data," responded a PR representative. Our own investigation revealed that the chain's wing sauce (which consists primarily of butter, sweet cream, and partially hydrogenated margarine) also contains such unappetizing additives as maltodextrin, propylene glycol alginate, xanthan gum, calcium disodium EDTA, and potassium sorbate. (Not being able to tell what's natural and what's enhanced has always been a problem for us at Hooters.)
That the FDA has no definition of "all natural." Thus, chains like Arby's can say they serve "100 percent all-natural chicken," despite using artificial flavoring. Even worse, the "all-natural" smoothies at chains across the country may contain high-fructose corn syrup.
The fat content of its 1-pound burgers. We contacted our local Fuddruckers restaurant and were told that the nutritional information was available on the chain's Web site (it's not). The corporate office later responded that providing such information would be "very extensive [sic] and timely."
That each of its medium-size fruit-and-yogurt smoothies packs at least 60 grams of sugar—more than four times the sugar in a chocolate-frosted cake doughnut. The fruit purees used in the smoothies are mixed with liberal doses of sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup.
That unlike rival chains such as Domino's, it has made little effort to introduce healthier options. A Papa John's representative admitted, "At this time, we have no additional regular menu items that are targeted toward eating lighter."
That its French toast sticks (which deliver more than 4 grams of fat per stick) share a deep fryer with the pork sausage, pork fritters, Chicken Tenders, chicken fries, Big Fish patties, hash browns, onion rings, and Cheesy Tots—and that all of those items contain harmful trans fats. But there is hope: After the company was sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for moving too slowly to remove trans fats from its menu, Burger King promised to phase them out by the end of 2008.
That the synthetic food colorings in its pastries have been linked to irritability, restlessness, and sleep disturbance in children. And British researchers found that artificial food colorings and preservatives in the diets of 3-year-old's caused an increase in hyperactive behavior. (The same ingredients appear in fast-food items such as mayonnaise, M&M Blizzards, and McDonald's shakes.) To its credit, Chipotle uses no artificial colorings or flavorings.
That, unlike Jamba Juice's all-fruit smoothies, the top four ingredients in its Blue Raspberry Fruit Blast are Sierra Mist soda, water, sugar, and corn syrup.
Just how many calories and carbs you're consuming in those massive pasta portions. (As the menu puts it, "Family-style service or individual entrees are available...Whichever you choose, you'll have plenty to share or take home.") In Italy, a standard pasta serving means 4 ounces of noodles with a few tablespoons of sauce. At Maggiano's, a large order of pasta translates into 2 pounds of noodles piled high on a hubcap-size dinner plate (15 1/2 inches in diameter). A Maggiano's PR rep responded to our request for nutritional information a week later: "Sorry for the delay. I had to wait for corporates approval. Unfortunately, they have declined to participate."
How its tortillas stack up nutritionally. The chain says it provides "nutritional information regarding calories, fat, protein & carbohydrates for some of our most popular items"—the chicken, steak, and shrimp fajitas, for example—on its Web site. But the numbers provided don't include an essential component: the tortilla.
How little nutritional info it provides. A Friday's PR rep told us that the chain makes the data available for only its "low-fat" dishes—those coming in under 500 calories and 10 grams of fat. There are just three such dishes on the entire Friday's menu.
That their food is actually considerably worse for you than the often-maligned fast-food fare. In fact, our menu analysis of 24 national chains revealed that the average entree at a sit-down restaurant contains 867 calories, compared with 522 calories in the average fast-food entree. And that's before appetizers, sides, or desserts—selections that can easily double your total calorie intake.
July 2008 Update: It's still diner beware out there. The good news is that a handful of other municipalities are considering legislation similar to New York City's. We won't be satisfied until there's complete transparency in the restaurant industry. That day will come, we're sure of it. Why? Because we won't stop snooping until it does.
So to purchase this book you may purchase it on Amazon. I only listed the 16 Secrets available to learn the rest of the secrets you must buy a copy for yourself. And truthfully after all the personal studies and researching I have done I found it best to just cook at home w/ONLY fresh grown veggies and fruit as well as ONLY fresh but Butcher meat (from a farm that I KNOW uses NO Chemicals or Steroids on their animals!) BUT, if you still enjoy to eat out I highly suggest you grab a copy of this book, you can follow my Amazon link below, thanks... and enjoy a new and healthier lifestyle.♥