Weight Loss Support - Olive Garden & Macaroni Grill - Study by Center for Science




Glory87
12-03-2007, 01:00 AM
As a proponent of Olive Garden as a "hey, that's a place I can get something relatively low-cal and healthy" I thought this article (http://www.cspinet.org/new/200710311.html) was interesting.

Particularly:

Olive Garden Picks: CSPI’s lab tests found 790 calories in the Linguine alla Marinara—more than the 550 calories the chain reports. Capellini Pomodoro, pasta with tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil, also had more calories that the company stated (990 as opposed to 640). But both dishes had only 2 grams of saturated fat. “Garden Fare” items such as Venetian Apricot Chicken (450 calories), Shrimp Primavera (690 calories), and Pork Filettino (if ordered with vegetables, not potatoes, just 340 calories) are among the best choices.


JayEll
12-03-2007, 08:27 AM
Hey Glory87!

I think that was wishful thinking on your part! ;) It's been pretty obvious to me that the food at those places is high-cal and very dangerous because it is so good! Last time I went to Olive Garden, I left half the food and probably still took in too many cals.

I haven't been there in ages, but if I were to go again, I'd have to plan ahead on my calories, be prepared to leave food (or take it home--although I usually leave pasta anyway), and know that I was going over the day.

Jay

nelie
12-03-2007, 09:58 AM
Personally,

I can't stand the Olive Garden anymore. I used to like their breadsticks and salad but beyond that, I didn't care for their food. Last time I went (was given a gift certificate to them), I got the salad and soup thing because I knew that the salad and breadsticks was what I liked. I asked for the salad dressing on the side and although the salad was ok, it wasn't great. Sadly, the breadsticks also weren't great and the soup was the worst of it. We didn't use up all of the gift certificate but we don't plan on going back.

I even got something in the mail the other day offering a free dinner for 2 for filling out a survey. The free dinner was to either Olive Garden or Red Lobster (another least favorite). I was sad, I would've enjoyed a free dinner but I threw it away knowing I wouldn't enjoy it as much as places I do go out to eat at.

Oh yea, Macaroni grill. I do like Macaroni grill but only because they do have awesome bread. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever fall out of love of their bread but I don't think I will. It is a reason I stay away from them though :)


Robin41
12-03-2007, 10:27 AM
Most of these dishes have more calories than stated because your local restaurant's cook thinks he's being a nice guy by giving you more than the chain considers to be one serving. The article makes it sound like it's a vast right wing conspiracy to make us fat.

I'm always a little suspicious of anything that comes out of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Most of their reports are designed for the most impact on the evening news and not for the pure science. I'm sorry but not everything is a heart attack on a plate. Some things are occasional treats that do no harm at all.

I really doubt there are a lot of people out there who would be surprised that fettucine al fredo is really bad for you, but the the CSPI always makes it sound like breaking news.

Tealeaf
12-03-2007, 11:29 AM
That apricot chicken stuff sounds good. I wish there were an Olive Garden near me so I could try it!

Ya, I have to think that the cooks are having a trouble portion control, rather than some conspiracy. Cooks are humans too, and we're all conditioned to just pile food onto a plate!

FrouFrou
12-03-2007, 03:13 PM
I LOVE Olive Garden and don't got there often because I KNOW it isn't lo-cal! :lol: It is too good and my favorite place to eat so I tend to overeat. Now Macaroni Grill, ugh, not so great. Apparently, others thought so too because they closed the one on this side of town. But whenever I go out to eat I never think about the cals otherwise I wouldn't go, ever. It's a treat so I indulge for sure.

nylisa
12-03-2007, 05:40 PM
I'm not much of a conspiracy buff, but there are restaurant groups which have lobbied against legislation to require calorie info in menus:

http://www.restaurant.org/government/state/nutrition/index.cfm

And it's not just the obvious stuff which we can try to avoid. I analyzed the chicken mandarin salad at Wendys. Substituting a fat free dressing and skipping the crunchy noodles saves me over 200 calories.

nelie
12-03-2007, 06:25 PM
Red Robin is one that annoys me because they refuse to disclose their nutritional information.

I do think nutritional information should be disclosed but also people need to do their own research on how to lessen the calories in their entrees. Asking for veggies (and meat) to be cooked without butter, asking for sauces on the side, asking for dressing on the side, etc can save a lot of calories. Also choosing good restaurant choices is key.

almostheaven
12-03-2007, 10:21 PM
I'll attest to the Venetian Apricot Chicken. So much so that I had to come home and make a similar apricot glaze and now use it (with the diced tomatoes they also used) on my grilled salmon and chicken. Delicious.

NightengaleShane
12-04-2007, 08:26 AM
Olive Garden ...:hungry: :barf:

I don't love Olive Garden as much as I love Macaroni Grill, which is also TERRIBLE in regards to fat and calories. It makes me sad, because the food is SO good, but knowing how BAD it is for me makes me stay away. It's UNBELIEVABLE how many calories restaurant meals contain.

vixjean
12-04-2007, 09:00 AM
yes duhhh about the alfredo sauce. I love Olive Garden, just love it. I just made a deal with my boyfriend that if we eat at home 20 nights (we really eat out a lot). That we can treat ourselves to Olive Garden, YUMMY.
I have since switched to a healthier meal though, mixed gril, chicken and steak and veggies, and potatos---(can replace potatos)....
and it's amazing, it is enough for a whole nother dinner the next night too!

GatorgalstuckinGA
12-04-2007, 12:29 PM
Ever since DH and i went on a dietary Budget...we don't eat out but once in a blue moon...its amazing at how much easier it is to loose weight. In general most resturants serve way too big portion sizes and most options i enjoy, i know are not low in fat. So it really has helped not going to resturants but every now and then.

I do wish more resturants would disclose nutritional information. But i know if i saw it, i'd probably steer clear of a lot of things i like to eat

nylisa
12-04-2007, 02:41 PM
Personally, I'd like having the info right out there on the menu. Even if I decide to splurge, at least I know exactly what I'm getting and I can plan accordingly in reducing calories for other meals, working out a bit longer. In fact, I'd probably eat out/pick up lunch out a lot more often if I knew what I was getting calorie & nutritionwise. I eat at home/bring my lunch most of the time because at least then, I know what I'm getting. I work in midtown, so there's lots of temptation, but healthier choices too. I tend to stick to sushi or select your own salad when I get lunch out. I keep balsamic vinegar on hand to use instead of dressing because those house dressing can pack a real calorie wallop.

NightengaleShane
12-04-2007, 02:46 PM
Actually, some restaurants will let you view the nutritional guides right on the spot. I've asked before. While of course quite a few do not have information, the ones that do will let you see it... they will give you a strange look, as you will most likely be the first one to ask, but they will give it to you nonetheless ;)

almostheaven
12-04-2007, 02:58 PM
Actually, some restaurants will let you view the nutritional guides right on the spot. I've asked before. While of course quite a few do not have information, the ones that do will let you see it... they will give you a strange look, as you will most likely be the first one to ask, but they will give it to you nonetheless ;)
LOL That happens quite frequently here. I don't think people in WV know the concept of healthy eating. If it ain't cornbread and pinto beans, with maybe some pickled pigs feet on the side, it ain't worth eating. Ick!

But I ask for the guides all the time. Since I frequent pretty much the same places though, I pretty much already know what they have and what I'll order before I go in.

JayEll
12-04-2007, 04:38 PM
But now wait. Let me just voice another side of the discussion. Those of us who have been watching our calories for awhile, learning about nutrition, etc.--do we really NOT KNOW what foods we should steer clear of in a restaurant? I mean, this is not difficult once you know a few things!

I got slammed just the other day by an "innocent" roast beef sandwich, and I should have known better. I mean, there was beef, cheese, mayonnaise, really good cheesy bread... Did I HAVE to have a nutrition breakdown right there in front of me to know it was high cal? Probably not. I think I had taken a temporary trip to la-la land and thought "oh, it's so healthy!" Oh right, I am just such a health food nut... Bleah! Who was I kidding?

So my point is that with experience, you kinda know what you can order and what you can't, and it's not the restaurant's fault if you eat something you shouldn't have! And, if a restaurant does not have "better choices" available, then golly, don't go there!

Jay

midwife
12-04-2007, 05:16 PM
Thanks for the link, Glory. I think it is a really good reminder that calories can vary from what is printed....but I do think it is helpful to have that information. Information can help people make better choices.

I was a little surprised when I researched the calories in a grilled veggie sandwich I had this weekend. I replaced fries with fruit, and made what I thought was the "better" choice of all the choices...ummm 800 calories for a grilled veggie sandwich. Considering the article, maybe I should round those calories up!! Most interestingly to me, the BLT from the same restaurant weighed in at 560 calories. The best choice would have been for me to make my own darn sandwich!

I think we are all fairly educated on calorie counts and nutrition principles, but I never mind having more information to help me make decisions..."bad" and "good" and "healthy" are relative terms and I like numbers and grams and mgs....except now it looks like we can't rely so much on what the restaurants claim anyway.

mandalinn82
12-04-2007, 05:22 PM
Jay - mostly I agree with you. The problem comes in when places like Olive Garden place items like the pomodoro on it's "healthy options" menu, and publish calorie information. In that case, the people who DO the research to find the healthy options are getting burned, because the restaurant is providing is, according to their website, "for the full portion as served".

I think that if you ARE going to provide nutrition information, you should make a reasonable effort for it to be accurate, if only so the people who do the research so they can make a healthy option don't get penalized.

nylisa
12-04-2007, 05:47 PM
But now wait. Let me just voice another side of the discussion. Those of us who have been watching our calories for awhile, learning about nutrition, etc.--do we really NOT KNOW what foods we should steer clear of in a restaurant? I mean, this is not difficult once you know a few things!

I got slammed just the other day by an "innocent" roast beef sandwich, and I should have known better. I mean, there was beef, cheese, mayonnaise, really good cheesy bread... Did I HAVE to have a nutrition breakdown right there in front of me to know it was high cal? Probably not. I think I had taken a temporary trip to la-la land and thought "oh, it's so healthy!" Oh right, I am just such a health food nut... Bleah! Who was I kidding?

So my point is that with experience, you kinda know what you can order and what you can't, and it's not the restaurant's fault if you eat something you shouldn't have! And, if a restaurant does not have "better choices" available, then golly, don't go there!

Jay

To an extent yes, we know the bacon cheeseburger with fries is a meal which is packed with calories or even the sandwich you've described. But what about things like the Wendy's Mandarin Chicken salad I mentioned upthread (substituting a different dressing and skipping the crunchy noodles saved me over 200 calories. I had looked up the info on their website. That's quite a bit of calories for people trying to lose weight. And what about newbies who don't even think to question, thinking, "hey, it's a salad, it must be a good choice". Not to mention restaurants promote their salads as being a healthier alternative to other fare. And at least one restaurant trade association is trying to lobby against legislation requiring the info on menus. I already e-mailed them awhile ago, telling them I'd dine out/take out more if I had the nutritional info.

cbmare
12-04-2007, 05:48 PM
I used to love the soup, salad, breadstick thing at Olive Garden. We used to go once a month from work. Most of us ordered that. Every single person who didn't go food they hated. My sister had a gift card for them. We went when I was back there. I won't go again. Maybe my taste buds have changed since I've changed my eating habits. It was awful!

As far a Macaroni Grill. That place sucks. You can't have a nibble of bread without rosemary permeating every taste receptacle in your body. It is so pungent that I can't breathe. The taste is impossible to get out of the mouth. They offer no other alternative to rosemary bread. That place has soup. You'd think they'd have crackers. Their pasta sticks to the teeth. I feel like I have to get the jaws of life to pull my teeth apart. They have a few salads instead of pasta. However, I've had a hard time getting them to put the dressing on the side and they get grouchy if you send it back.

Nelie, I'll take that Reb Lobster thing. That place I can handle.

You are absolutely right about the calorie counts. I've put some of what some places have listed into Fit Day. I get error messages about the number of calories.

cbmare
12-04-2007, 06:20 PM
I just went into Diet Facts and Red Lobster is on there with a ton of nutritional information. 13 pages with 363 items listed.

Olive Garden has a whopping 15.

Romano's Macaroni Grill has 145.

Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE : DRI) of Orlando, Florida, which, through its subsidiaries, operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52 restaurants.

JayEll
12-04-2007, 07:05 PM
Hey nylisa, I understand what you're saying--but at the same time, those crunchy noodles are--like--noodles, right? carbs? And they are fried before dried, I think. So yes, 100 calories easily in those noodles. And any dressing that isn't low-cal has got to be 100 cals a TBS.

And Amanda, I agree that if the websites give a calorie count for the "full portion served," and then the individual restaurant is serving more than that, you can get burned that way. OTOH, we all know what 2 ounces of cooked pasta looks like, don't we? And so why would one eat more than that at a sitting anyway?

Gosh, mare, sounds like you're done with Macaroni Grill... :p I have enjoyed Red Lobster, but the danger there is those doggone cheese biscuits. :fr:

Jay

EZMONEY
12-04-2007, 10:29 PM
I agree with you JAY...most of us "KNOW" what/when/where of what makes us fat...all the good stuff!

I also think that sometimes there are food items we "think" are ok but are high in calories because of sauces, etc....the end of the world if we eat it...nah!

I love macaroni Grill Shrimp Portofino...before I was on my "journey of better choices' I could care less abot the calories...now I look before I go...I still get shrimp portofino when I go to mac. grill...but I make 2 meals out of it!

jellydisney
12-05-2007, 07:07 AM
Most of these dishes have more calories than stated because your local restaurant's cook thinks he's being a nice guy by giving you more than the chain considers to be one serving. The article makes it sound like it's a vast right wing conspiracy to make us fat.


This is so true! It happened right in front of me at the cafeteria at my office. They list the calories on a sign in front of each dish, and the cook served me a HUGE scoop of pasta and then his boss yelled at him for giving me more than a serving. So even though it's nice to see the calories listed, there's no way of knowing how much you're actually getting!

Heather
12-05-2007, 07:48 AM
I know I have learned a lot of words to beware of. Not 100% accurate, but it helps. For example, with soups, if it has the word "cream" "chowder" or "bisque" I tend to avoid it.

I would love more restaurants to provide more nutritional info, but I do more and more trust my abilities (over time) to figure out what some of the better options are. And I figure that my success over time in maintaining my weight loss is an indication I'm doing something right -- even if my own guesses aren't perfect!

queennmab
12-05-2007, 09:25 AM
I work at Olive Garden. I eat there about two-four times a month and I eat whatever I like (looooove the alfredo). And I'm still dropping weight. If there's one thing I've learned from this experience, it's that the bigger you are the more you can get away with eating and still lose. Plus I get a ton of exercise as a server.

Glory87
12-05-2007, 03:58 PM
As far a Macaroni Grill. That place sucks. You can't have a nibble of bread without rosemary permeating every taste receptacle in your body. It is so pungent that I can't breathe. The taste is impossible to get out of the mouth. They offer no other alternative to rosemary bread.

You are so funny - that's exactly the way I feel about fennel!

nelie
12-05-2007, 04:23 PM
Oooo I love rosemary which is one reason I love Macaroni Grill's bread :)

Mmmm bread...

I go out to eat every week. Usually on saturday and even for places that I don't know calorie counts, I practice portion control and try to make the best choices that I can. One of my favorite chinese places even offers sauces on the side. Although when I first started losing weight, I didn't eat out for about 3 months.

almostheaven
12-08-2007, 10:03 AM
And what about newbies who don't even think to question, thinking, "hey, it's a salad, it must be a good choice".
They're newbies, and will need to educate themselves. They'll get there. But yes, even a salad covered with noodles and high cal dressing is better than a cheeseburger. At least then you get your daily veggies.

But honestly, even before I started this, we'd go to Shoneys and I'd fix a huge salad. I've always loved salads. And I KNEW all that cheese, that cup of dressing, the ton of eggs, and all that other garbage I piled over those 2 pieces of lettuce wasn't a HEALTHY salad. If I ever tried to fool anyone in thinking that it was, it was just myself I was trying to fool. But even then, without the education, I STILL knew a healthy salad should consist of a lot of lettuce and not all that other junk.