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Holy Macaroni! The Most Fattening Restaurant Foods
PF Chang Pan-Fried Noodles Combo
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has identified nine of the most fattening restaurant meals. CSPI has been "honoring" dubious dishes with "Xtreme Eating Awards" since 2007. On the list for 2010 is P.F. Chang's Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo. Here are the numbers, according to CSPI: By the Numbers: 1,820 cal; 7,690 mg sodium -- five times the daily limit.
Diners can avoid the most fattening restaurant meals by reading the menu closely. The following descriptions are clues that fat -- and a lot of extra calories -- may have been added during preparation: pan-fried, sautéed, battered, breaded, au gratin, cheesy, creamy, buttered, deep-fried, béarnaise, or crispy. "Crisp" items are often deep-fried in oil.
Eat Better: Ask How It's Cooked
Fish baked with herbs, veggies, and lemon juice is one cooking method that adds very little fat or calories to a meal. Other healthy cooking methods include:
Eat Better: Go á la Carte
Avoid the super-sized portions of restaurant meals by ordering side orders instead. In a Mexican restaurant, you could try one soft-shelled taco of grilled meats, a cup of chicken-tortilla soup, a side salad, and a fruit dessert. You get exactly what you want. And you avoid mindlessly munching on the fried rice and refried beans that usually come with a standard restaurant meal.
Eat Better: Downsize
When only a hamburger will do, or a drive-through is your only option, think small. Try the child's meal or a junior burger. The following substitutions can provide a fast-food fix with fewer calories: Double cheeseburger: 600 | Cheeseburger: 320 Super fries: 540 | Small fries: 210 Large soda: 310 | Small soda: 150
Eat Better: Hide Temptations
Many restaurants present a picture of abundance, starting with an overflowing basket of bread or chips. To prevent mindlessly inhaling a few hundred calories before your main meal, wave the waiter away when he swoops in with the basket of carbs. Or ask the waiter to remove the basket as soon as you've had a small portion.
Eat Better: Pasta
Pasta swimming in cream sauce can be an unhealthy choice -- it's packed with fat, calories, and cholesterol. Eat a small portion and top with better sauces, such as:
Red clam sauce
Marinara sauce without meat
Primavera sauce without cream
Marsala sauce with wine, not butter
Eat Better: Pizza
Pizzerias are accustomed to special orders -- and the following tactics can significantly reduce the calories and fat in pizza:
Order a thin crust.
Pile on veggies, and skip the meat.
Ask for extra sauce and half the cheese.
After a slice or two, take the rest home.
Eat Better: Dessert
Fresh fruit is available at many restaurants now, including fast-food chains, thanks to demand from health-conscious diners. If it's not listed with the desserts, check the side dishes -- or ask for a special order. Even the Cheesecake Factory offers a Goblet of Fresh Strawberries as a light alternative to their over-the-top confections. It provides a sweet finish for just 110 calories.