Healthy Low-Carb Choices Abound At Popular Restaurants
July 1, 2005
The following article is a reprint from my new blog called "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb":
"Diet Detective" Charles Platkin
This Winston-Salem Journal column from nutrition and public health advocate Charles Stuart Platkin underlines the challenge low-carbers face when trying to explain to others about healthy eating options when dining out at their favorite restaurants. I've written about this subject previously at this blog. But Platkin gives some very bad advice about what foods to order at several popular restaurants.
Platkin cites a recent National Restaurant Association survey that finds the average American goes out to eat 290 times a year. That's about 4-5 times a week that people dine at a restaurant which means people who are livin' la vida low-carb need to know what they can order to stay on the plan. Unfortunately, Platkin does not help with his suggestion of "a few healthier choices and tips" when dining out.
Beginning with TGI Friday's, Platkin recommends a chicken, salmon, chicken salad, and grouper dish which are all relatively low in fat and calories. But with side items such as rice, beans, veggies, and baked potatoes, these will quickly add up the carb totals of these meals.
The meats are fine as long as you watch out for hidden sugars in sauces and toppings, but you really ought to order green beans, cauliflower, or a fresh garden salad with full-fat Ranch dressing for your sides. It will help you stay on your low-carb lifestyle.
Of course, Platkin warns people to stay away from the "Atkins menu items and salads" because they "may be over 700 calories with dressing." Calories, schmalories! Eat up and by all means put lots of cheese on top of your meats and salads since it is low in carbohydrates. Predictably, Platkins advises against doing this.
At the Outback Steakhouse, Platkin promotes the shrimp, chicken or steak griller with "no butter or glaze," a baked potato with ketchup (EWW!) and absolutely "no butter or sour cream," and a house salad without croutons or cheese topped with low-fat (YUCK!) salad dressing. Okay, can I gag now?
If you're gonna eat grilled shrimp, chicken or steak, then load that bad boy up on butter when it's cooked! There's no other way to eat it when you're on low-carb. Skip the baked potato with ketchup because both are loaded with carbs anyway. Instead, get the house salad without croutons and with EXTRA cheese along with full-fat Ranch dressing.
He also recommends the Chicken or Shrimp on the Barbie again "without butter" with a baked or sweet potato and a house salad. Again, cook it with LOTS of butter, skip the potato, and build yourself a great house salad with cheese, bacon and full-fat Ranch dressing. As for a dipping sauce for your shrimp, try mustard or mayon instead of cocktail or barbecue sauces which are loaded with sugar.
Platkin says to "get used to saying 'no butter, please!'," but I say tell them to double the amount of butter they use please! Butter has ZERO carbs and you should savor every bite without any guilt whatsoever.
At Chili's restaurant, Platkin recommends anything on the low-calorie Guiltless Grill menu, which includes such carb-loaded dishes such as rice, corn on the cob, steamed vegetables, black beans, and tomato basil pasta without cheese. Tsk, tsk! You can choose much better foods to eat than those which will quickly derail your low-carb plan. Order the meats and enjoy a cool salad to temper the spicy flavor of the foods at this restaurant.
When you go to Applebee's, Platkin is completely in awe of the much-heralded low-fat/low-calorie Weight Watchers menu that recently debuted there with "better cooking techniques and healthier ingredients." The entrees on this menu may be low in fat and calories, but they include dishes with a lot of hidden sugars, including Teriyaki (sugar) Shrimp Skewers with rice pilaf and vegetables and Grilled Tilapia with mango (sugar) salsa. Interestingly, Platkin says to "steer clear of the Bleu Cheese Sirloin," but that's one I would HIGHLY recommend to someone following a low-carb lifestyle. Enjoy a great salad with it for a perfect meal.
Finally, at Red Lobster, Platkin points people to their LightHouse menu where they can eat their lobster with cocktail sauce instead of butter to "save calories." Oh please! Dip that thing in gobs and gobs of butter like it was meant to be enjoyed and stop worrying about the calories! The same goes for the shrimp and crab legs. Enjoy these ZERO carb foods with ZERO carb butter!
I don't fault Platkin for espousing his low-fat/low-calorie montra because that's all he's ever known as a trained expert in nutrition. He even wrote a book called The Automatic Diet which calls for a portion-controlled, low-fat, low-calorie approach to weight loss. Ho-hum! Can't they come up with ANYTHING different?
I know! They can start livin' la vida low-carb and offer people a real way to find lasting, permanent and deliciously satifying weight loss. You can write the "Diet Detective" himself at .