A comparison of calories in restaurant foods

Eating out doesn’t have to be unhealthful. More restaurants are offering choices lower in fat and calories.

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Americans love eating out -- and that affection for restaurant food is growing.

Restaurant industry sales were $379 billion in 2000, reaching an estimated $558 billion in 2008, according to the National Restaurant Assn. But there's a price to pay beyond the tab -- thicker waistlines. Many restaurant items are laden with fat and calories, far more than most people would estimate.

But eating out doesn't have to be unhealthful. More restaurants are offering choices lower in fat and calories, and many are posting nutritional information for some or all of their dishes online so that diners can get the low-down before facing temptation.

The following are comparisons of similar dishes at popular chain restaurants. One item is on the high end of calories and fat, the other low, showing the difference a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise or handful of cheese can make:


Meals in which consumers choose the ingredients offer the opportunity to eat smart -- or pig out. Both of these options started with a flour tortilla, cheese, lettuce and tomato salsa.

Burrito (with pork, rice, pinto beans and sour cream)Burrito (with chicken)
Calories: 1,053
Total fat: 44 grams
Calories: 625
Total fat: 25 grams

Pizza Hut

There's no reason to avoid favorite foods such as pizza, but toppings can turn a reasonable choice into a nutritional disaster. Notice the fat difference here.

Meat Lover's Thin 'N Crispy Pizza Veggie Lover's Thin 'N Crispy Pizza
Calories (one slice of a 14-inch pizza): 430
Total fat: 25 grams
Calories (one slice of a 14-inch pizza): 260
Total fat: 10 grams

Panda Express

Chicken is chicken -- not. How a dish is prepared can completely alter calories and fat. The mushroom chicken is a nutritional star compared with the popular orange chicken.

Orange chicken Mushroom chicken
Calories (5.5-ounce serving): 500
Total fat: 27 grams
Calories (5.5-ounce serving): 130
Total fat: 6 grams

P.F. Chang's China Bistro

Two shrimp dishes, two very different calorie counts. The Crispy Honey Shrimp is lightly battered and quick-fried, while the Cantonese Shrimp is stir-fried.

Crispy Honey Shrimp Cantonese Shrimp
Calories (per order): 1,061
Total fat: 44 grams
Calories (per order): 330
Total fat: 12 grams

Most restaurants are used to accommodating diners' requests for sauces and dressings on the side. P.F. Chang's goes one further: Ask for dishes "stock velveted" and they'll be cooked in vegetable stock instead of oil, a common Chinese cooking technique that cuts way down on fat and calories. At other restaurants, ask if the kitchen can lighten foods by cooking them in little or no oil or butter.

Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill

Most restaurants tout extra, grande, super-size or especial meals, but more food and more flavor usually mean more calories and fat.

Especial Fish Taco HealthMex Chicken Taco
Calories: 350
Total fat: 22 grams
Calories: 150
Total fat: 15 grams


Not all breakfast breads are created equal. It's a good bet that muffins, sweet rolls and coffee cakes are going to be loaded with calories and fat.

Blueberry muffin Low-fat eight grain roll
Calories: 500
Total fat: 19 grams
Calories: 270
Total fat: 2 grams

But don't be fooled by reduced-fat items -- they can be fattening too. Starbucks' reduced-fat Strawberries and Crème Coffee Cake, for example, has 330 calories and 9 grams of fat.

McDonald's, Wendy's and KFC

Grilled foods are usually lower in fat and calories than fried foods. In these wraps, grilled versus fried counts for about a 60- to 80-calorie difference and saves several fat grams. Not a huge difference, but most people don't eat just one, so that calorie saving adds up.

Ranch Snack Wrap (crispy), McDonald's Chipotle BBQ or Honey Mustard Snack Wrap (grilled), McDonald's
Calories: 340
Total fat: 17 grams
Calories: 260
Total fat: 9 grams
Homestyle Chicken Go Wrap, Wendy's Grilled Chicken Go Wrap, Wendy's
Calories: 320
Total fat: 16 grams
Calories: 260
Total fat: 11 grams
Oven Roasted Twister, KFC Oven Roasted Twister without sauce, KFC
Calories: 420
Total fat: 17 grams
Calories: 330
Total fat: 7 grams


Breakfast is important, but some meals will ruin the day before it's begun. Here, the French Toast Slam provides more than half of the calories most people need in one day.

French Toast Slam Veggie-cheese omelet with Egg Beaters
Calories (14 ounces): 1,180
Total fat: 75 grams
Calories (12 ounces): 346
Total fat: 22 grams

Watching when you eat is important too. Denny's is starting a late-night promotion with rock music, waiters in blue jeans and foods like the Sweet Ride Nachos -- tortilla chips, cinnamon sugar, fruit, hot fudge and whipped cream.

In-N-Out Burger

The Protein Style burger at In-N-Out has less than half the fat and calories of the Double-Double, which sports two beef patties and two slices of cheese. That "secret sauce" on most fast-food hamburgers has a mayonnaise base, so it's better to stick with ketchup and mustard.

Double-Double with onion Protein Style hamburger (bun replaced with lettuce)
Calories: 670
Total fat: 41 grams
Calories: 240
Total fat: 17 grams;