16 Dirty Restaurant Industry Secrets

[via mens health]

A year ago, we uncovered 16 dirty little secrets the restaurant industry was keeping hidden under countertops and tucked behind boardroom doors. We exposed certain chains for refusing to disclose their nutritional content, and others for refusing to remove trans fatty acids from their foods, in spite of a flood of scientific evidence that shows how harmful partially hydrogenated oils can be. The good news is that, once exposed, some of the shamed chains moved to rectify these secrets. The bad news is that some didn’t. And the even more disappointing news is that in the year since, we’ve discovered 16 new secrets that the restaurant industry would rather you never hear about. Too bad for them.

We’re sick of false advertising, misleading health claims, and fast food chains that refuse to acknowledge (and mitigate) their role in America’s current obesity epidemic. We understand that business is business, but tricking your customers into believing your foods are healthy or free of trans fat when they aren’t isn’t just a dirty trick—it should be downright criminal. Hopefully this round of 16 secrets can help motivate the restaurant industry to make changes for the better. Until then, Eat This, Not That! will be here to help you read between the lines, recognize the hype, and choose the best options for your wallet and waistlines.

Baskin-Robbins doesn’t want you to know...

...that it still sells the Chocolate Oreo Shake. We initially named this the worst drink in America--thanks to its whopping 2,600 calories, 135 grams of fat, and 263 grams of sugar. But then it disappeared from the company’s nutrition information, and a company rep told the New York Post it wasn’t sold anymore (the party line was that it’s a "seasonal" drink). But if that’s the case, how can they explain the fact that we were able to purchase one of these out-of-season beverages just a week after the rep made those claims? Incidentally, he made the purchases just before shooting a Today Show segment.

On the Border doesn’t want you to know...

...that it serves a "salad" with more than 1,500 calories. That’s almost as many calories as you should eat in an entire day—in one salad! Order the Grande Taco Salad with Taco Beef and Smoked Chipotle Vinaigrette Dressing, and you’ll consume 1,670 calories and 124 grams of fat. So just when you thought you were making a healthy decision, it turns out you'll be ingesting the saturated fat equivalent of 34 Oscar Mayer bacon strips, and the caloric equivalent of 6 McDonald’s hamburgers!

Jack In The Box doesn’t want you to know...

...that it’s the Trans-Fattiest Restaurant in America. Why? Because of items like the Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges, which have 12 grams of trans fatty acids—nearly six times the amount the American Heart Association recommends you consume in a single day! In fact, it doesn’t want you to know that over 80 percent of its food items still contain the heart-damaging processed fat! Check out the trans-fat menu breakdown here (and keep in mind, this is only the list of foods with three or more grams of the stuff—there are still plenty more Jack In The Box menu items with a handful of 1, 1.5, or 2 grams of the stuff):

o 3 grams trans fat: Asian Chicken Salad with Crispy Chicken Strips (3 g); Southwest Chicken Salad with Crispy Chicken Strips (3 g); Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger (3 g); Double Bacon and Cheese Ciabatta Burger (3 g); Sourdough Jack Burger (3 g); Ultimate Cheeseburger (3 g); Chipotle Chicken Ciabatta with Spicy Crispy Chicken (3 g); Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club (3 g); Jack’s Spicy Chicken (3 g); Jack’s Spicy Chicken with Cheese (3 g); 3 piece Egg Rolls (3 g); 24 oz Chocolate Ice Cream Shake (3 g); 24 oz Egg Nog Shake (3 g); 24 oz Oreo Cookie Ice Cream Shake (3 g); 24 oz Strawberry Ice Cream Shake (3 g); 24 oz Vanilla Ice Cream Shake (3 g); Homestyle Chicken Biscuit (3 g); 2 Chicken Breast Strip Kids’ Meal (3 g); 2 Crispy Chicken Strips, Kids’ Meal (3 g)

o 3.5 grams: 5 piece Mini Churros (3.5 g); Chicken Club Salad with Crispy Chicken Strips (3.5 g); Sirloin Steak Melt (3.5 g); Fish Sandwich (3.5 g); Sirloin Steak and Egg Burrito No Salsa (3.5 g); Sirloin Steak and Egg Burrito with Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa (3.5 g); Supreme Croissant (3.5 g); Kids’ Portion Natural Cut Fries (3.5 g)

o 4 grams: 6 piece Mozzarella Cheese Sticks (4 g); 6 piece Cheesy Macaroni Bites (4 g); Sausage Croissant (4 g);

o 4.5 grams: 7 piece Stuffed Jalapenos (4.5 g); Sourdough Ultimate Cheeseburger (4.5 g); 5 Hash Brown Sticks (4.5 g)

o 5 grams: small Natural Cut Fries (5 g); small Seasoned Curly Fries (5 g); Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit (5 g); 4 Original French Toast Sticks (5 g); Sausage Biscuit (5 g);

o 6 grams: 4 Crispy Chicken Strips (6 g); Sausage Egg and Cheese Biscuit (6 g);

o 7 grams: medium Natural Cut Fries (7 g); Sampler Trio (7 g); medium Seasoned Curly Fries (7 g); Spicy Chicken Biscuit (7 g); 10 piece Mini Churros (7 g); Breakfast Bowl, Denver (7 g); Breakfast Bowl, Hearty (7 g);

o 9 grams: small Fish and Chips (9 g)

o 10 grams: medium Fish and Chips (10 g); large Natural Cut Fries (10 g); 8 piece Onion Rings (10 g)

o 12 grams: large Fish and Chips (12 g); Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges (12 g)

Quiznos doesn’t want you to know...

...that all "regular"-sized subs with cheese and dressing have over 540 calories. In fact, only three of 23 available subs have less than 700 calories—and two have over 1,000. Ordering a regular sub without cheese and dressing helps some—the calorie counts for 9 of 23 dip below 500, but not by much. With lunches like those, you’re guaranteed to see a productivity drop in the afternoon. A reasonable sandwich shouldn’t pack more than 500 calories.

Subway doesn’t want you to know...

...that you’ll eat more calories there than you would at McDonald’s. It’s not exactly Subway’s fault—most of their offerings are healthy, nutritious, and low-calorie. But a 2007 study at Columbia University found that when shown two 1,000-calorie dishes, people underestimate the load by about 159 calories in food they consider "healthy." The researchers also found that when people eat at "healthy" restaurants, like Subway, they tend to order 131 percent more calories in side items than they do at known "unhealthy" restaurants. Not that calorie-count alone tells the whole story about the nutritional quality of the foods you’re eating, but if you’re already going out of your way to eat as healthfully as possible, it’s important to remember that it’s still possible to overdo it, even at "good" restaurants.

Sbarro’s doesn’t want you to know...

...that it’s nutritional information web page has been "under construction" for at least 20 months. It must just be taking them a long time to add up all those calories, carbs, and grams of fat—when we called a Sbarro’s in New York City, where the nutritional information is required to be shown, we learned that ONE SLICE of stuffed pepperoni pizza has 890 calories!

KFC doesn’t want you to know...

...that it still uses partially hydrogenated oils. One look at the KFC nutrition information would have you believe that you’ll only find trans fat if you eat the gravy. What’s worse, KFC boasts on its website that KFC Chicken contains 0 grams of trans fats per serving. But partially hydrogenated oils appear 91 times on its menu’s ingredients list—in a range of menu items, from chicken dishes to sauces to potatoes and rice! Technically, their nondisclosure isn’t totally illegal: the FDA says that if a product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, you’re allowed to say it’s "trans-fat free". We applaud KFC for cutting back significantly on the trans fats over the past few years, but do us all a big favor and go the whole way.

T.G.I.Friday’s doesn’t want you to know...

...that it lies on its website about providing nutritional information. One question listed in the FAQs (see them here) reads, "Where can I obtain nutritional information?" Here’s TGI Friday’s answer:

"T.G.I. Friday’s Restaurants® understands that our guests have many different nutritional desires. The selected nutritional information we provide is listed on our menu in restaurants or at http://www.tgifridays.com/menus/Menus.aspx. We do not provide ingredient statements. "

If by "nutritional information" they mean "a list of our menu items without any nutritional information at all," then yes, clicking on that link will do what they say. But that’s not actually what it means. When asked, a T.G.I. Friday’s rep said he wasn’t aware of any such misleading link. "We don’t provide nutritional information unless required by law," he said . Fair enough. Applebees makes that same exact claim on their website—see the question about nutritional information here. But while Applebees’ insistence on withholding their nutritional information is shady and secretive, at least it’s not a lie.

Ruby Tuesday doesn’t want you to know...

...that the Veggie Burger isn’t as healthy as it sounds. With 1,007 calories, 53 grams of fat, and 73 grams of carbohydrates, there’s nothing "healthy" about this deceptive dish. At least they’re not guilty of false advertising with their Colossal Burger—appropriately named, considering the 2,014 calories, 141 grams of fat, and 95 grams of carbohydrates contained within its buns.

Taco Bell doesn’t want you to know...

...that you’re better off ordering a Cheesy Double Beef Burrito than its Fiesta Taco Salad. The salad is actually the most caloric item on its menu—with 840 calories, 45 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams of trans fats, this is not a healthy choice. Cut almost half the calories by either opting for the shell-less salad, or the Double Beef Burrito, as mentioned above.

Starbucks doesn’t want you to know...

...that most of its lattes pack more sugar than a two-scoop ice cream sundae. The Starbucks nutrition website boasts that one Grande Latte provides half of your recommended calcium intake for an entire day ; what it doesn’t say is that some of those calcium-packed beverages also provides almost your entire day’s worth of sugars. Check it out: a no-whip Grande Gingersnap Latte packs 34 grams of the sweet stuff, a no-whip Grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte offers 38 grams, and the healthy-sounding Grande Black Tea Latte includes 31 grams. Add whipped cream, add sugar. And cutting back from 2 percent milk to skim doesn’t help, either—in fact, the fat-free versions are even sweeter.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill doesn’t want you to know...

...that you can make spaghetti and meatballs at home for 1040 calories less and at nearly 1/5 the price. One dinner plate of spaghetti and meatballs with tomato basil sauce at the Grill packs 1,500 calories and costs about $10.79 (depending on the location). But you can make a 460-calorie version for $2.28 per serving at home. Here’s the recipe, which makes 6 servings.

Coldstone doesn’t want you to know...

...that every single one of its small shakes has at least 1,000 calories, 92 grams of sugar, and 1.5 grams of trans fats. Key word "small"—the larger varieties have up to 2,010 calories and two days’ worth of fat (we’re looking at you, Gotta-Have-It-sized PB&C Shake).

Dunkin Donuts doesn’t want you to know...

...that its muffins are worse than its donuts. Even the reduced fat blueberry muffin still has 450 calories—more than all but two donuts on the menu.

The Cheesecake Factory doesn’t want you to know...

...its nutritional information. As quoted from the Factory’s website: "At this point, we do not provide nutritional information for our menu selections. We pride ourselves on using only the freshest and finest ingredients available. Everything on our menu is made in-house on a daily basis so that we can maintain the highest food quality standards." We’re pleased the ingredients they use are fresh and fine. But are they packed with fat, calories, sugar, and sodium? Until they tell us, we’re going to assume the worst.

Neither does IHOP.

From their website, in response to the FAQ "Is nutritional information available?": "IHOP offers a wide variety of food that should allow most people to choose a meal that suits their dietary needs." Sure, but how are they supposed to do that—close their eyes and pick an item at random?

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