Top 3 Fat-Saving Restaurant Swaps

Eating Healthier While Eating Out

By Dave Zinczenko, ABC News Nutrition and Wellness Editor

Fat is good. Fat is delicious. Fat is necessary. And the right kinds of fat - in particular the mono - and poly-unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids you get from certain nuts, plants and fish - are one of the best ways to fend off heart disease.

With the good comes the bad - a heart-breaking amount of bad. The average American eats 78.6 pounds of fats and oils every year, according to a 2009 U.S. Census report. And much of that is of the saturated or trans variety - fats that come from animals or that are chemically altered to make them easier to work with while upping our risks of life-threatening diseases like heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no more than 20 percent to 35 percent of total calories should come from fat. So for an adult on a standard 2,000 calorie diet, that means between 44 and 78 grams of fat a day. (A gram of fat is worth 9 calories, for those of you keeping score at home.)

How to Spot and Skip Hidden Restaurant Calories

Yet, glance at the nutritional information at any of your favorite chain restaurants and you'll see how easy it is to blow way past that daily recommendation - and I'm not talking about the cake and ice cream. From appetizers to salads, many restaurant dishes contain enough "bad" fat to make an artery cry.

Here's what to eat and what to beat next time you're out for a full meal:


An order of wings at Outback Steakhouse contains four servings, according to the chain, but if you ate the entire plate yourself, you'd have consumed the fat gram equivalent of 15 McDonald's cheeseburgers - before the entree arrives!

Credit: Outback Steakhouse

BEAT IT! Outback Steakhouse Wings with medium sauce (4 servings)

2,144 calories, 180g total fat

EAT IT! Outback Steakhouse Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie (2 servings)

312 calories, 20g total fat

SAVE! 1,832 calories, 160g total fat

How to Avoid Diet Disasters: 4 Skinnier Restaurant Menu Picks


A salad must be a waist-friendly option, right? Unfortunately, many entree salads are turned into the fattiest options on the menu when topped with cheese, fried chips or croutons, fatty cuts of meat and buckets of dressing. For nearly the same amount of fat in a Quesadilla Explosion Salad at Chili's, you could order yourself 14 Fresco Soft Tacos from Taco Bell!

BEAT IT! Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad

1,430 calories, 96 g total fat

EAT IT! Chili's Lighter Choice 6 oz Classic Sirloin

250 calories, 7 g total fat

SAVE! 1,180 Calories, 89 g Fat


If you make it to dessert without popping a trouser button, be warned. A serving of Tennessee Whiskey Cake at TGI Friday's packs a whopping 54 grams of fat. Even the best option on the menu, the Oreo Madness sundae, has 21 grams of fat. If you really want to indulge, grab a few spoons and some friends, and split an order among the table.

BEAT IT! TGI Friday's Tennessee Whiskey Cake

1,270 calories, 54 g total fat

EAT IT! TGI Friday's Oreo Madness

500 calories, 21 g total fat

SAVE! 770 Calories, 33 g total fat

Statement From Outback: "Outback has a wide variety of appetizers and entrées to meet a variety of dietary preferences, including several items under 600 calories as well as gluten-free choices."

Statement From Chili's: "Chili's Grill & Bar is committed to providing our guests with a range of menu options that taste great and fit their lifestyles. For those seeking better-for-you foods, our Lighter Choices menu features seven entrees that deliver the same bold, flavorful tastes guests crave all for less than 650 calories. In addition to being lower in calories and fat, several Lighter Choices menu items are lower in sodium. Guests are also always welcome to substitute side items or ask for adjustments in the preparation of their meal to meet specific dietary needs."

Statement From TGI Fridays: "TGI Fridays provides a variety of menu options, so guests can choose the right food for their experience. Whether guests want something indulgent, something to share with friends or want to keep it on the lighter side, we have something for everyone to enjoy the Fridays experience."

Dave Zinczenko, ABC News nutrition and wellness editor, is a New York Times No. 1 bestselling author. His latest book, "Eat It to Beat It!" is full of food swaps, meal plans and the latest food controversies. Sign up here for his free newsletter now!

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