I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus with this series, but I’m back – and this time with a list of restaurants that I used to venture out to. Nowadays, if I was ever invited to an event at one of these establishments, I would most likely come up with a very creative excuse to get out of dinner.
One of the reasons why many of these restaurants were regular places for me to venture out to was because I traveled quite a bit for work. When heading to the Midwest, as a vegetarian, chain restaurants were the only place that you could trust to get a vegetarian meal that didn’t consist of a dinner roll with a side of iceberg lettuce. Traveling in groups was especially difficult because I didn’t always have the luxury of my own car to make my own lunch or dinner plans. I have gotten more creative as I am now traveling quite a bit for work again – I always have a bag of trail mix or nuts in my laptop case, I pack protein powder for my breakfast, and I try stopping at a grocery store upon arriving at my destination to pick up fruits and yogurt. It’s also a great idea to scope out a salad bar which is a much better option than the lunches that get brought in for work meetings.
But back to the restaurants on my hit list – most of these chains have actually made improvements to their calorie count ever since the California law went into affect – but even these “improved” meals are a bit scary. In no particular order:
- PF Changs – if you check the nutritional information online, most of the items seem like they have reasonable calorie counts until you start noticing that many of the entrees are meant to serve multiple people. There are many vegetarian options that include tofu, but I highly doubt PF Changs cares about organic or non-GMO soybeans. But forget the documented information – I always feel horrible after eating at this restaurant…enough of an indicator that I’d rather be eating elsewhere.
- Cheesecake Factory – the first indication for this restaurant should be how closely they hold their nutritional information. It is not available on their website which automatically raises a red flag for me. This link offers up a decent picture of what you’re putting into your body when you eat at this restaurant.
- California Pizza Kitchen – the calorie counts alone at this restaurant should have you running out the door screaming. But feel free to steal topping ideas from their pizza menu to try to recreate your own versions at home!
- BJ’s – any restaurant that doesn’t provide nutritional information on their website is suspect in my mind
- Olive Garden – fat and sodium will definitely get you when ordering from this menu
- Panera Bread – did you know that most of the sandwiches at this restaurant approach the 1000 calorie mark? You may think you’re choosing a healthier option by eating at Panera Bread, but think again! Some of the soups are not bad, but the sodium will always get you. The vegetarian salads seem like a lower calorie option, but these salads are always so unsatisfying as a meal.
The list could go on and on, but I think you must get the point by now. I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist, but no one is looking out for your health out there. All those labels for “natural” and “healthy” choices are all marketing ploys to make you feel better about making the wrong choices. Don’t get me wrong – I love going out for a nice meal and have someone cook for me for a change. I am just very particular about the restaurants I choose and look for places that follow the same food values I follow in my own kitchen.