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Calorie Counting Made Easy

By: Cherlene Richards

For anyone trying to shed those extra winter pounds, eating out is usually not a good way to lose weight. On average, women should eat less than 2200 calories a day and men should try for 2500 or less.


In year's past, eating out would have kept some from sticking to their calorie goal but a growing trend is making calorie counting easy to do.


As customers fill in during the noon hour, they're faced with hundreds of options: burgers, fries and many other tasty, but not so healthy, choices.


"We market the stuff to look good and it does look good, and it tastes great, It's just not always something you should be eating for every meal," Applebee's general manager Chris Flesner said.


That's why restaurants are expanding their selection and offering low-calorie meals that are easy to find on the menu. Applebee's Neighborhood Restaurant added five new entrees that are 550 calories or less.


"They're all very good. Our developers did a nice job putting them together. We have the steak. We have the chicken. We have the salads, paradise salad. Those all seem to roll pretty well for us," Flesner said.
So far, customers love the idea.


"It's a way of going to a restaurant and enjoying what's there, but not feeling like you had to eat so much food," Gail Kephart said.


Kephart specifically looks for lighter options when eating out.


"I'm interested in, not only watching my weight, but then, also within my family, there's a history of high cholesterol and if I can modify that through the diet I select, that's a good way to go," Kephart said.


Guests say it makes it easier to go out and enjoy a meal with friends without feeling weighed down. Here items are marked with the calorie count. And it's a trend that's sweeping restaurant chains across the nation. Sanford Health Dietician Teresa Beach says she's excited about the new approach.


"Even as little as five years ago, we couldn't, you know, we tried to hunt and search for calories in different restaurants and they just didn't have them available," Beach said.


But that's changing and Beach says it's a step in the right direction. These low-calorie meals are not only 550 calories or less, but they're also balanced meals. Beach says usually there's a starch, lean protein and fruits or veggies, which sometimes we overlook.


"It's kind of in that perfect range, I think, for a healthy diet. You wanna look somewhere in between 500 and 600 calories at a meal time," Beach said.


Watching what you eat doesn't have to stop at the dinner table. Applebee's offers low-calorie drinks."You can have a lighter alcoholic drink if that's what you choose or a couple of them. Then you have lighter entrée. We have the smaller desserts now so that you really enjoy a full meal, and not overload yourself," Flesner said.
"There are options out there, and I might add that there are a number of very flavorful options out there, too. That truly you can incorporate flavor, but not necessarily have to see a lot of calories with it," Kephart said.


Several chains also post their menus online. Beach says people should check out the options before heading out. That way you have some time to think, rather than ordering on an impulse.


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