The Truth Behind Restaurant Menus
Nowadays, restaurants are taking advantage of certain health buzzwords on their menus such as “gluten-free”, “dairy-free”, “vegan”, “paleo”, etc. in order to advertise the apparent health-consciousness of the establishment. While this may be helpful to people who have serious dietary restrictions, the problem arises when these menu buzzwords are taken to mean that the dishes served are healthy and guilt-free. It’s important to be aware of what the traps associated with these sorts of menus are, so that when ordering, you can make an educated and nutritious decision based on the actual components of a dish. Therefore, below you will find a few signs and menu traps to be wary of when eating out at a restaurant:
#1: A dish is advertised as being gluten-free.
Let’s start with discussing what “gluten-free” actually means. Gluten is a protein composite that is naturally occurring in certain grains and wheat. It provides elasticity to dough, as well as helps it to rise. And, unless you are sensitive or intolerant to gluten (celiac disease), cutting it from your diet really isn’t that beneficial to you. Furthermore, when a dish is specifically made to be gluten-free, it generally still contains a comparable amount of fat and calories that it’s gluten-y counterpart would also have.
#2: A dish is advertised as being vegan.
Many people choose to follow a vegan diet for moral or religious reasons. Health-wise, while vegan diets can be full of healthy whole grains, veggies, and plant-based proteins, many restaurants compensate for the lack of flavor of options like tofu or tempeh by marinating them in sodium-laden sauces. If a restaurant is trying to mimic basic comfort foods such as chicken fingers or burgers, chances are the vegan options are just as unhealthy as the non-vegan options.
#3: A dish is advertised as being dairy-free.
Similarly to “vegan” and “gluten-free”, “dairy-free” menu options are really great for people who are lactose-intolerant. However, for those of us who aren’t, “dairy-free” is not necessarily a healthier menu alternative. Oftentimes, dairy substitutes such as margarine or soy-based products can contain just as many calories as the dairy-based ones would. Furthermore, dairy-free products oftentimes contain unhealthy additives such as carrageenan or maltodextrin (neither of which you want to eat). So unless you need to eat dairy-free, consider sticking to the high-protein and dairy-based dishes. Chances are that they’ll be a bit healthier.