Nutrition Articles

Restaurant Rating Scorecard

You Be the Judge

It’s getting ugly out there. With “stacks,” “towers” and “explosions” of menu items, plates are coming out of the kitchen absolutely huge with food. It’s almost like a conspiracy against weight loss. The good news is that some restaurants are more fit-friendly than others. To find and compare healthier restaurants for future dining decisions, use this Restaurant Rating Scorecard. Keep ‘em and collect ‘em. Never leave home without ‘em.

Restaurant Name:  ______________________

Healthy Feature
Value Score
Healthy options highlighted
(items low in cholesterol, sodium, fat, or calories)
+10 points  
Special vegetarian dishes +3  
Presence of “Red Flag” words
(minus 1 point for each Red rice Flag from Menu Watch Word card)
– 0 -??  
Copy of menu available ahead of time +2  
Lunch portions available at dinnertime +10  
These lunch portions are still at lunch prices +3  
Server/kitchen willingly boxes up ½ of your meal before bringing it out +2  
Able to share a meal without extra plate charge +2  
Overall impression of portion sizes Scale of 0-10
(0 = gargantuan, 10 = tiny)

Kitchen Flexibility

Whole grain snacks available instead of refined flour (white) versions
(rolls, bread, crackers, biscuits, tortillas)
Chef will make a fruit or veggie platter on request +2  
Chef will remove skin from the chicken +2  
Catered to special needs or preparation requests +7  
Restaurant Atmosphere    
Restaurant has a mascot or cartoon character -10  
Overall impression of dedication to health
Scale of 0-10 (0 = who cares?, 10 = fanatical)

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Member Comments

  • What a GREAT idea!!!! I have a friend that never orders the special. It is designed to get you excited and all off track. You check the website and figure out what you are going to order and then all of a sudden-- THE SPECIAL. Let the waiter know up front you don't want the specials, please bring a box out when you deliver our meal, and you'd like your meal prepared with as minimal oil and butter as possible.
  • It would be nice if there was a link to the Red Flag Watch Word Card that they mention.
  • I foresee a lot of posts on the message boards about this, as we all take our cards and head out. I eat alone a lot when I go out, so I should have time to do this.
  • I haven't tried it yet.. Will do soon!
  • SHEILA-45
    Where's the share button? Would like to post this to Facebook.
  • It would also be very good if other systems - for example TripAdvisor - were to start taking this on board. You can *volunteer* this kind of info, of course, but it would be nice/encouraging if they asked for it.
  • This is a very good article. How can we persuade restaurateurs to read it?
  • I love this idea! I would love to see it added to the sparkpeople app for smart phones so that we can rank resturants and save them for reference.
    OMG I LOVE THIS IDEA! I'm going to be printing out a few of these to keep somewhere safe so I can have no fear when I go out with my b/f!
  • How about easy to find healthy options online? For example Chili's (the restaurant nearest our house), has guiltless grill items on their menu, but I don't seem to be able to filter out just those options.
  • All these cards need to be turned in and put into a data base some where so we Sparkers can turn to it, to see how places are rating!
  • This is a great idea! I've been trying to keep the "good restaurant" info in my head, not that I go out that much anymore.
    Quick, non-complicated, and the idea is easy to adapt to individual needs. Thanks. Just another great tool from SP!!!!
  • Great idea, KGWINDER!!! I suppose we could enter the nutritional info for all menu items in the nutrition tracker's add a food option if it isn't listed there, but that would be a lot of work. It would be wonderful to set up a place on the site with links to nutritional info from restaurants that post their info online.
    I had to LOL when I read that you counted every component of your meal as you ate it, but it's actually a good idea. I might have to start doing that. The day job sends me on the road frequently, and I've taken to preparing my meals in a hotel room with a microwave and a fridge for the most part so I can keep track of what I'm eating.
  • I think it would be wonderful to be able to have an area on this site to highlight local health restuarants, or at least healthy menu items. I went to a place in Kirkland WA called Ken Zaburo's and had their Seafood Bean Curd Hot Pot, as I was eating it I placed a mark on a sheet of paper for each bite I took (eg. 1 snow pea pod, 1 bite carrot), so I could calculate the calories when I got home. There was oil on the top so I asked if they added oil to the broth, or any other high calorie items. I was told that the oil was from the fish (yea! omega-3's) and that the flavor was from all the great stuff (see my food log 2/7/09), total calories 650 and very good nutrition for eating out.

    I'd love to know other "finds" for eating out that are not over 800 kcal and full of nutrition.