One of the main tricks to eating healthy and losing weight is to cook for yourself. We can’t always stay holed up in our homes like angry little hermit crabs, though, and since most cultures orient social activities around food, visiting with friends/coworkers/family often means going to restaurants and bars.
My husband’s grandmother is turning seventy-five. She’s pretty impressed with herself for surviving so long — as well she should be! — and is entitled to eating just about any damn thing she wants for her birthday. Unfortunately, “any damn thing” happens to be The Outback Steakhouse this year. Just like last year. And the year before.
It’s not my selection, so they’ll never hear a complaint from me. But I do have to make a confession here on the interwebs. I love food, both healthy and junky, so this is hard for me to admit:
Chain restaurants horrify me.
The portions are unreasonably massive. Everything seems to be coated in grease. All the food must have the ability to be frozen, preserved, and reheated later, so ridiculous chemicals are added. Even healthy food is drenched in sodium for “flavor.” And speaking of which, the flavors offered by chain restaurants are about as subtle and enjoyable as a stadium full of vuvuzelas.
If you’re going to eat something that’s bad for you, it should at least be delicious. This is why I love to frequent local joints. The atmosphere is always better, the food is tastier, and it’s a completely unique experience. You can go to any Applebees or Chili’s in the country and find the exact same thing. Shudder.
But chain restaurants are sometimes unavoidable, like for seventy-fifth birthday parties. I already know Outback isn’t healthy, nor is it meant to be. I mean, the ever-popular Aussie Cheese Fries appetizer have over 2000 calories alone!
The best I can do is try to get the healthiest menu item. I look for a couple keywords that are likely to suggest good food: “grilled” and “chicken” or “fish” in particular. I also always ask for vegetables as a side dish if it’s available. (French fries do not count as one of your daily servings of vegetables. Sorry.)
Alice Springs Chicken sounded pretty promising on the menu: Chicken breast flame grilled and topped with sautéed mushrooms, crisp strips of bacon, melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar and finished with our honey mustard sauce. Chicken: check! Grilled: check! Vegetables: check! Bacon: ooh, double check! The cheese and honey mustard can’t be all bad, right? I love honey mustard!
So I checked the nutrition information.
Now, let me say that calories don’t mean much. They’re a nice guideline for portion sizes, and if you eat fewer calories than you expend in a day, you’ll lose weight. A lot of people place too much significance on calories and not enough on the content of their food.
However, a 1300+ calorie entree is ridiculous when you consider the average number of calories a person needs in a day is 2000. And take a look at that sodium!
Out of curiosity, I thought I would take a look at a few other Outback entrees to see how they compare. The baby back ribs are scarily worse, and so is the rack of lamb, but you can actually do better by getting just about any one of their ludicrously-portioned steaks. Even the 20 oz steak has fewer calories! (Twenty ounces? Really?)
Wow. Lesson learned about checking what I eat before I get it. I shall never again trust that grilled chicken nonsense. *shakes fist*
There are recipes online that will allow you to emulate the flavor of the Alice Springs Chicken with a significant caloric reduction. (Or you can cook it at home with this recipe and make it equally as terrible for you.)
I’d recommend making your own delicious honey mustard sauce from scratch. It’s super easy, and you can make a big batch to keep in your fridge for later. I love using it as a dipping sauce for slices of chicken, bell pepper, or even my beloved raw broccoli. Get creative!
Honey Mustard Sauce
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Mix well and serve. Mmm. :) (Nutrition information is per tablespoon.)