What does the restaurant industry have to hide? One of the true issues behind obesity 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.
Through scientific testing, consultations with nutrition experts, and good old-fashioned snooping, we uncovered some of the secrets these mega-restaurateurs have been keeping.
It's no wonder . . .
1) T.G.I. Friday’s
. . . doesn’t want you to know the nutritional impact of any of its dishes, which they have made a policy of not revealing to customers for years, despite the fact that major competitors such as Chili’s and Ruby Tuesday’s do just that. Thankfully, new legislation in New York City forces restaurants with 15 or more branches nationwide to provide calorie counts for all dishes and drinks on their menus.
We popped by T.G.I. Friday’s the day the law went into effect and saw some real shockers: 2,270 calories for Potato Skins, 1,670 calories for Double-Stack Quesadillas, and, most appalling of all, a Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad with 1,360 calories! Now we see why they worked so hard to keep these numbers hidden.
2) Burger King
. . . doesn't want you to know 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 this year.
3) Red Robin
. . . doesn't want you to know 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 May 2008, however, nutrition facts were still not posted on the site.
4 ) Maggiano's Little Italy
. . . doesn't want you to know 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 corporate's approval. Unfortunately, they have declined to participate."
5) Sit-down chains
. . . don't want you to know 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.
For more reasons to insist on nutritional transparency from the food industry, check out these shocking secrets they don’t want you to know.
Have any secrets you’ve uncovered? We need your help in keeping the restaurant industry honest. If you have anything the rest of the country should know about, please let us know in a comment below.