If you think the biggest fat bombs are found at the drive-thru, then read this: A new study shows that full-service restaurants are the real calorie offenders. Thanks mainly to the ginormous portion sizes, a typical entrée packs an average of 800 calories, while a full meal clocks in at approximately 1,500 calories…topping out at over 2,000 calories if you decide to order a beverage and split dessert.
Researchers writing in the Journal of Nutrition Education analyzed more than 2,516 menu items at 21 national sit-down chains, such as Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday, and IHOP. The crazy-scary findings: Not only did calorie and fat levels often go way beyond what's considered healthy for a single meal (which is about 600 calories if you're shooting for 2,000 calories a day), but the sodium and saturated fat levels in one meal often exceeded an entire day's allotment. And half the meals analyzed failed to qualify as "healthy," based on standards derived from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Even menu options labeled "healthy choice" by the restaurant typically were not, study authors found.
Bummer if Olive Garden is a favorite date spot or if happy hour at T.G.I. Friday's is a post-work office tradition. Luckily, you don't have to swear these types of places off completely. It's all about ordering the right choices and enjoying them in moderation.