Restaurants are starting to get smarter when it comes to making meals that are healthier. McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A have updated their kids’ meals, making them lower in fat and calories and higher in nutrients.
Many casual and fast-food restaurants are now offering lighter options for adults (and many actually taste really good). Other restaurants are giving diners the tools to make informed decisions by plainly posting calorie and fat content in the restaurant or on the menu.
Applebee’s, the largest casual-dining chain in the world, introduced its “Under 550 Calorie” menu in January 2010. The menu has been updated in the last two years to include five menu options, with steak, shrimp, or chicken as the main entree. They also added a line of “Skinny Bee” cocktails which are all under 100 calories each.
Starting in 2004, Applebee’s became one of only a few restaurants with a Weight Watcher’s agreement to cater to those who want lower calorie options, but also need to know how many “points” each menu item is worth. With these options, one can make good choices when dining out.
Even if the restaurant doesn’t offer a light or reduced-calorie menu, simply the fact that a restaurant is offering the calorie and fat content can be helpful.
A provision in the 2010 federal health care overhaul bill will actually mandate any restaurant chain with over 20 stores to post calorie counts on their menu. Calorie counts are already mandated in New York, California, and Philadelphia, with a few individual chains, like Panera Bread Company, adding the calorie information to menu boards nationwide.
To “lighten” some menu items, Panera Bread Company, a fast-food chain based in St. Louis, Missouri, cut down on mayonnaise, bread, and salami. They also reduced the amount of sauce they added to sandwiches, reformulated soups to cut fat and sodium, and created a 300-calorie salad.
Another unique option at this restaurant is to offer “half” sandwiches which start at only 250 calories.