Monday, February 18, 2013
Although I'd rather eat at home ever since I started tracking my nutrition on Sparkpeople, one night when we were all hungry and tired and miles from home we stopped at an IHOP. (Me, my husband, and two kids.)
I knew that they had low calorie options from previous visits, but I had never ordered from these selections. I decided to order their SIMPLE & FIT Grilled Balsamic-Glazed Chicken. The description reads: "With a sweet balsamic glaze, this delicious grilled boneless chicken breast is topped with fresh sautéed mushrooms, onions and diced tomatoes. Enjoy steamed broccoli and a house salad with reduced-fat Italian dressing on the side. Just 440 calories."
The server brought out the salad as a starter, but instead of reduced-fat Italian, it came out with a side of full-fat ranch. I'm assuming nearly everyone orders ranch and they had the salads pre-made with the sides of ranch. When I asked for the Italian, the server seemed surprised. She brought me 3 single-serve reduced-fat Italian dressing packets at 15 calories each. I used one, and stashed the others in my bag in case I ever needed a low-cal dressing on the go.
When dinner came out, I received a platter with the chicken breast, the steamed broccoli, TONS of fried potatoes and a slice of garlic toast. The potatoes weren't hashbrowns, they were little cubes of potatoes, and there was a mountain of them covering half of the huge oval platter. The cook must have never before fulfilled a SIMPLE & FIT order, I thought. When I questioned the presence of potatoes and Texas toast on my plate, the server had no clue. I explained to her that I'm counting my calories and she looked at me like I was an alien from another planet. I asked for a menu, just to be sure I wasn't mistaken on what I ordered. And to make sure there wasn't any room in that 440 calories for a couple bites of potatoes.
I opted to avoid the potatoes and toast, but then I encountered another challenge. The sautéed vegetables topping the chicken breast and the chicken itself were drowning in oil. I avoided the oil as much as possible and made a mental note to increase the calorie count when I tracked it.
I lost a bit of faith in the low-calorie options on menus in general that night. Even though they are a chain and strive for consistency, you never know if you are going to get a cook that uses a little more oil, or puts a little too much cheese on something, etc.
Fast Forward to Today, My Second IHOP Experience (at a different location)
Today I ordered the SIMPLE & FIT Spinach, Mushroom & Tomato Omelette. The description reads: "Big on flavor, not on calories, and filled with fresh spinach, mushrooms, onions and Swiss cheese, then topped with fresh, diced tomatoes. Comes with a side of seasonal mixed fruit. Just 330 calories."
I actually felt a little embarrassed to be ordering SIMPLE & FIT, for fear it was as alien here as it was at the last IHOP.
This IHOP server didn't skip a beat when I ordered the low-cal option and my food came out looking exactly like the picture. It seemed huge to me...how could this be only 330 calories? It was delicious, too. So good, in fact, that my paranoia kicked in and I began to think of everything that could have gone wrong in the kitchen. Maybe it was supposed to be an egg substitute omelette and they used their regular omelette batter? Maybe they used too much cheese? Maybe this one came out unusually large? Maybe they sautéed the veggies in too much oil?
Anyone else have experiences with inconsistency in supposed "low-cal" menu options at chain restaurants?