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Mysterious Menus: Restaurant Food That Sounds Healthy, May Not Be

They seem like safe, healthy choices: a green salad, a garden fresh pizza or a tasty sushi roll. But what you may think is good for you on a restaurant menu, may be loaded with fat, sugar and calories.

Norman Regional dietitian Keri Hale, RD/LD, said that sometimes what traditionally is thought of as healthy options are not so, especially at restaurants.

“The calorie, fat and sugar content of some of menu items is even surprising to me, as a dietitian,” Hale said.

Hale offers tips on how to eat healthy when dining out and navigate the minefield of menu options.

Surprising Salads

It’s green, loaded with vegetables and fresh from the farm, so salads must be healthy, right? Not necessarily. Hale said creamy dressings, bacon, cheese, and fried meats can quickly turn a healthy salad into a gut-busting meal.

For example, On the Border’s Grande Taco Salad has 1,700 calories, which could possibly be all of your daily needs.

“Instead of creamy dressings, try salsa, vinegars or even cottage cheese as a salad dressing,” Hale said. “And always ask for your dressing on the side.”

Salad Best Bets:

Panera Bread Asian Sesame Chicken Salad (Half portion) with Reduced Sugar Asian Vinaigrette 255 calories, 14 grams fat

Chipotle Steak Salad with Black Beans and Tomato Salsa: 340 calories, 8 g fat

Puzzling Pizza

Pizza is perhaps the most two-faced of menu options. They can either be healthy, filling meals that cover a variety of food groups, or monstrosities laden with salt, fat and calories.

Hale said deep-dish or thicker crust pizzas contain not only more crust but more calories. Thicker pizza dough is often drenched in butter than baked. When you head to the pizza parlor, stay away from extra cheese and meat toppings, stuffed crusts and dipping sauces. Instead Hale recommends thin crust pizzas loaded with extra sauce and veggie toppings.

Pizza Best Bets:

Pizza Hut Fit and Delicious Veggie (Two slices) 300 calories, 8 g fat

Domino’s Thin Crust Ham and Pineapple (Two slices) 310 calories, 14 g fat

Sneaky Sushi

Sushi seems like a great diet food – filled with fish and vegetables. But remember when eating sushi, what is inside is not always healthy and that portion control is key.

“Sushi rolls are so light we often think we can eat as many as we want,” Hale said.

So don’t go on a sushi binge. Fillings such as eel, avocado and cream cheese can also up the calorie content. Tempura rolls are fried, making them a not-so-healthy sushi course.

Sushi Best Bets:

Salmon (fish only) 40 calories, 2 g fat

Cucumber Roll 136 calories

Tuna Roll 184 calories

Next Steps

To determine exactly how many calories you need each day, visit  This site also allows visitors to look up the nutritional content of popular foods, including those on restaurant menus.

For more advice, contact a registered dietitian in your area. For menu listings and nutritional information for local restaurants visit  

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Contact Kelly Wells
Norman Regional Health System

Office (405) 307.2143
Fax (405) 307.2144