Having a good #steak is not just about #eating, it’s about indulgence. It’s going to a steakhouse and stuffing yourself until you can’t eat any more. Steakhouses have proliferated in the last 10 years. I’m sure you know many of their names — Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris, Outback, LongHorn, Lone Star, Ponderosa, Smith & Wollensky and, of course, the famed Peter Luger Steakhouse in New York.
It’s funny, when I called a number of their corporate communications offices, they seemed very defensive, as if they had something to hide. And I guess they do, because they are not exactly known for serving up “health” #food. But there are a few tricks that can help you navigate the menu next time you visit your local steakhouse.
BREAD AND BUTTER
Boy, is the bread good at these steakhouses! A bit of irony for low-carb dieters — they come to eat a low-carb steak and are faced with the best bread on earth. My advice is, if you can’t limit yourself to just one slice, have the basket removed from the table. For many of us, eating bread is just a way to prevent boredom until the real meal comes — so to avoid being tempted, refuse it before it arrives. You can also ask for water and perhaps a plate of veggies to snack on. If you must have a slice of bread, at least don’t smother it with butter.
Watch out! These can be a #nutrition disaster. One obvious calorie catastrophe are those batter-dipped, deep-fried onions, such as Outback’s Bloomin’ Onion. It has about 1,700 calories and 116 grams of fat! But there are other items to be wary of as well. Sauteed mushrooms or crab cakes can pack more than 200 calories per serving — and that’s without any sauces. And if you thought you were getting your meal off to a healthy start with French onion soup or lobster bisque, think again. Either one can have more than 500 calories per serving. As always, avoid anything fried, creamy or served with a sauce. Look for the words “broiled” or “steamed.” And if you’re not sure how it’s prepared — ask.
Some of the healthy choices to try are oysters on the half shell (only about 10 calories per oyster), shrimp cocktail (about 22 calories per shrimp, including the sauce) or a broth-based (not cream-based) soup. To avoid salad sabotage, ask for the dressing on the side and sprinkle it on with a fork. Or ask for fat-free or low-fat dressing — at least give it a try. With the new focus on health these days, many restaurants do carry it. And avoid high-calorie salad add-ons like cheese and croutons. Most of all, try to resist the blue cheese salad some steak restaurants are known for — with a half cup (or more) of blue cheese, you’d be better off serving yourself up another steak.
While beef is high in saturated (unhealthy) fat, it’s tasty as well as a good source of protein, iron and other nutrients. But there are some nutritional minefields to avoid. For instance, did you know that Outback prepares its steak (as well as Chicken or Shrimp on the Barbie) with butter? Or that Ruth’s Chris adds butter to the plate to create a sizzle when served? In fact, many of the steakhouses I called put either butter or oil on their steaks. But don’t worry; almost all are willing to make them without if you ask.
“These can make or break your meal. For example, if you order your potato with bacon, butter, cheese or sour cream — you can kiss goodbye to a day’s worth of saturated fat,” cautions Hurley.
Know your suspect “sides” — they can add up to anywhere from 250 to 800 calories: creamed spinach (about 300 calories per cup), mashed potatoes (200 calories per cup), French fries (600 calories for a large order) and vegetables sauteed in butter or oil. Order your vegetables steamed with steak seasoning added for flavor. Order your vegetables steamed with steak seasoning on top for added flavor.
Even a plain baked potato can present a problem since, at most steakhouses, they weigh in at approximately one pound. That’s 450 calories without any butter (100 calories per tablespoon) or sour cream (25 calories per tablespoon). So if you’re going to have a baked potato, which is normally a good choice, have it cut in thirds and split it with others at the table, or ask your waitperson for a take-out container.
For many people, steaks and potatoes go hand in hand with a martini or wine. The good news is that red wine and even martinis are lower in calories (120 to 160) than most other alcoholic beverages, but they still add up. Plus, after a few martinis, when it comes to dessert time, your typical “no” can easily turn into a “yes.”
You can dine out at a steakhouse and still eat relatively healthfully — truth is, I ate at Outback about twice a week during a four-month book tour and managed to have a healthy meal each and every time.