How to Reduce Your Restaurant Calories When They’re Not on the Menu
FAQs - Did You Know?
August 9, 2021

how to keep restaurant calories low

Restaurant calories have become considerably easier to find on menus since the Affordable Care Act required this feature in many places.  As of the end of 2015, eating establishments with 20 or more locations were required to add this basic nutrition information to help diners make informed choices.

What Happens if Restaurant Calories Aren’t Listed?

Since the law requires food service venues with 20 or more locations – including delis, bakeries, diners, stadiums, theme parks, cafes, bars, and others – to display the restaurant calories, this does have you covered for any chains you visit.  However, if you’re heading to a little mom n’ pop hole in the wall, it’s up to that establishment to decide whether they’d like to share the nutrition info in their meal.  What if they choose not to?

In cases when the restaurant calories are unavailable to you, you can’t use precision to make your decisions. Instead, it’s up to you to simply use your best guess as you choose your meal.  As you’ve seen in other articles here on ShareFit, that isn’t always easy. Some meals are surprisingly low in calories, fats, sugars, etc, while others are shockingly high. Therefore, it’s a good idea to use certain tools and strategies to your best advantage.

How to Eat Well Without the Food Nutrition Facts

To start, you can make certain guesses about various foods based on their descriptions.  Regardless of whether or not the restaurant calories are officially listed, you can pretty much assume that if anything has been deep fried, is coated in cheese or a creamy dressing, you’re already starting on a high-calorie track.

You can dodge those options if they won’t suit your eating plan for the day, and then take a look at what’s left.  Regardless of whether you’re sure about what nutrition will be on your plate, you can still remind yourself of the rule that you are not required to eat everything you’ve been served.  Smaller portions mean that you’ll automatically eat fewer calories, regardless of how many the specific food contains.

To make sure you won’t end up hungry from eating less, it’s often safe to choose a green side salad with the dressing on the side to bump up your fiber and nutrient intake.  By putting the dressing on the side, you can decide how much of it you want, to avoid drowning your meal in excess fats, sugars and calories.

Use Your Phone to Estimate Restaurant Calories

Even if the restaurant calories aren’t listed on the menu or even on the establishment’s website, this doesn’t mean you’re completely on your own.  The ShareFit Food Log tool (accessible when you register for free – don’t worry, your account will not be used for spam, and there’s no download required because it’s web-based) has a massive database that will allow you to look up foods comparable to the one you’re thinking of ordering.

That way, even if you can’t check the restaurant calories for the specific dish that will be served, you’ll be able to get a good idea of the nutrition of something similar.  Instead of just guessing, you have the tool to create a good estimate. This will let you know if it’s something you want to order and, if you do, how much of it you should eat to keep on track toward your goal.

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