5 Easy Steps to Ordering Healthy Lunches for Work: How to Avoid the Calorie Bombs

Posted by on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 with 1 Comments

When offices order lunches from sit-down restaurants as a special treat, employees might automatically think they’ll be eating healthier food than when they grab a quick burger from the fast food place down the street. However, a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior indicates that may not be the case.

take-out at the office

Ordering healthy lunches takes a little know-how.
Image source: flickr user massdistraction

The study examined the nutrition information from nearly 21 chain restaurants, divided into lower-end eateries like Denny’s and IHOP, mid-priced options like Applebee’s and Olive Garden, and pricier restaurants like The Capital Grille and Morton’s. The average restaurant entree was 800 calories, with an adult meal (which researchers defined as including an entree, side dish, and half of an appetizer) averaged 1,495 calories and 28 grams of saturated fat. Considering that adults are cautioned to limit their daily calorie intake to approximately 2,000 calories and 15 grams of saturated fat for the entire day, it’s easy to see how ordering healthy lunches for work can be a challenge — and ordering the wrong item can wreak havoc on your best efforts to follow a reasonable diet.

Skipping the bacon cheeseburger with fries is an obvious strategy, but unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Many innocent-sounding restaurant meals are hidden calorie bombs: take Applebee’s, where five of their seven entree salads pack in more than 1,000 calories apiece.

Applebee's takeout salad and cake

When it comes to “healthy” restaurant salads, looks can be deceiving! That salad may have more calories than the cake.
Image source: flickr user oomni

What’s a hungry but health-conscious diner to do? At work, when it’s time to add your choice to the office lunch delivery order, you may not have time to pore over calorie counts and select the absolute healthiest option. Here are a few rules of thumb that will help you navigate the menu:

1) Beware anything marketed as “crispy” or “crunchy”. This usually means fried, which will usually lead to an entree with higher calories and more saturated fat. Case in point: P.F. Chang’s crispy honey chicken racks up about 1,430 calories, while the ginger chicken with broccoli is just under 820 calories.

2) Skip the full-fat, creamy salad dressings. Applebee’s highest-calorie salad (the 1,320-calorie pecan-crusted chicken salad) drops a stunning 430 calories when you order it sans dressing. Generally, clear dressings like balsamic vinaigrettes are the healthiest choice.

P.F. Chang's crispy chicken

“Crispy” is a code word for fried, which can make healthy chicken a calorie bomb.
Image source: flickr user jensteele

3) Exercise portion control. Studies show that restaurant offerings have ballooned in size over the years, with the average hamburger being 20 percent larger than it was two decades ago. Once you have your food, put half of it on a plate and leave the other half in its take-out box to take home at the end of the day; now you have two reasonably-sized meals instead of one gigantic lunch.

4) Don’t mistake appetizers for lighter meals. A 2010 study found that many restaurants’ starters frequently had the most calories and fat on the menu; for example, Olive Garden’s bruschetta has 950 calories, while a lunch portion of lasagna has more than 60 percent fewer calories, with a much more reasonable 580.

Chili's guiltless grill menu

Many restaurants now offer lighter options on their menus.
Image source: flickr user tantek

5) Keep your eyes peeled for a “lighter choices” section on the menu — they’re being added in many chain restaurants due to new health care reform laws that will soon require calorie counts to be displayed on menus. Diners might be dismayed to learn their favorite salad has two-thirds of their recommended daily fat intake, so restaurants are making a point to provide healthier alternatives and retain customers.

When you’re trying to maintain a diet in the office, the customized online ordering at Waiter.com makes modifications and adjustments straightforward and simple. It doesn’t have to be a battle to make healthy choices at work!

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — Waiter.com is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & deliveryWaiter.com offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

One response to “5 Easy Steps to Ordering Healthy Lunches for Work: How to Avoid the Calorie Bombs”

  1. Charles Edward says:

    Nice post thanks for the sharing with us ………..