"Goodfoodnearyou" is a good example of why this is so hard. When you use a computer, it generally can't deal with more than one or two criteria. I used my old zip code, and it 1) gave me only chains/fast food and b) doesn't take serving size into account. It recommended things like chili from Sonic at "only" 50 calories, without noticing that that's a condiment-- it's the amount of chili they put on a chili dog. When I flipped it to sort by "most protein," it recommended a whole cheese pizza from the Costco food court (266g of protein, 4825 calories) or a 4-piece fried chicken dinner from Culver's (burgers, chicken, and frozen custard-- home of the "butterburger") at 123g of protein and 2100 calories.
I think this is a job for a human brain. I would suggest just looking at your options in a calm moment and making a mental list of four or five places that you know have at least one meal that you like and fits your average dinner calorie target. Then when everyone's sitting around saying, "Where do you wanna go?" "I dunno, where do *you* wanna go?" you can be the one to pipe up and say, "Well, how about B, X, C, or Y? B is really cheap, X has the most choices, C is right there by the movie, and Y is least likely to be crowded."
And it's probably better to find options that are healthy under any circumstances, not something that "uses up" your remaining calories for a particular day. If you go by calories and you have a lot, you're likely to choose something less healthy because you can, instead of getting something that you know is healthy. It's also just kind of awkward when someone says "Let's go out!" and you say, "Oh, hang on, I need to calculate my calories for the day and then find a restaurant that fits today's menu plan." The rest of the group members are going to roll their eyes, and that'll make you say, "Oh, never mind, let's just get pizza or something."
Last-minute decisions have a tendency to go bad, so narrowing down the choices in advance makes it many times easier to make a better decision. If you have that list of multiple possibilities, you can be sure you'll have good options without other people thinking you're making it all about you.
Also, I've found that people really appreciate it when somebody turns "Where should we go?" into a multiple choice.People are much more comfortable voting on a list than suggesting something out of the blue.
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Look at each restaurant's website. Many chains have nutritional information listed online. Frequently, dishes from national and even local chains are in the Spark tracker already. You could also try asking for nutritional information at the restaurant when you get there--some places have flyers that you can get which contain this data.
Many non-chain restaurants have their menus online. Even if they don't list exact nutrition information, you can often use the menu to decide which choices will best fit your dietary goals and to decide what you are going to eat ahead of time. If I am going to have 4 sea scallops in a white wine/caper sauce and a green salad...well, I can make a pretty good guess about how to track something like that even though it won't be perfect.
Obviously eating out frequently is not a great choice since you can't totally control ingredients and volume. Almost anything that you eat at a fast food or chain restaurant is also going to be full of salt and other additives that you might not want, such as flavor enhancers (like MSG) and preservatives.
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Something like that would be very region-specific. If no one in your area has created one, then it would be nearly impossible to find something like that. Unfortunately, I think you're out of luck on this one.
Heather Writer, mother, wife, and breadwinner. I love to run, but running doesn't love me, so I'm switching to my low-impact bike.
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8/8/13 4:34 P
Well I can think of how one could accomplish creating such an app but I haven't heard of one that someone has already done. To create it you'd need a database of all of the restaurants in an area (ex. within 10 miles of your zip code) and the nutritional information for the menus of those restaurants. Then its just a matter of creating a function that would search through the database using location and calorie counts of individual items as queries*. This would actually be not too difficult to accomplish if you stuck with chain restaurants since they have menus that stay the same nationwide and generally have calorie counts on their menus. It would get difficult with local restaurants or regional chains for obvious reasons. Perhaps you could piggy-back off of a database like Yelp.
*Going for multiple courses and/or alcohol would complicate things of course. There could also be an option for food type/course as well.
Right then, any programmers out there who want to take this on. I'd bet you'd get at least 2 sales :D
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