November 29, 1995
Web posted at: 6 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Under the names "guiltless grill," "lite," or "lightsides," restaurants tout new "healthy menus," all promising the same thing: less fat and fewer calories.
But do they deliver?
Most do, according to one consumer group. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) analyzed "healthy" entrees at seven of the largest U.S. restaurant chains and found three-fourths of the items met the group's criteria for good health.
"We're happy to say that you have a far better chance of getting a healthy or low-fat meal off a 'healthy' or 'lite' menu than you would off the regular menu," said CSPI's Jayne Hurley. CSPI is the same group that exposed the fat in Chinese food and movie popcorn.
However, the restaurants weren't perfect. All of the dishes had too much salt -- from 670 to 2,870 grams -- sometimes more than for the regular menu items. And, Hurley added, "about a third of the dishes we looked at had more fat than the menus promised."
The healthiest dishes from the CSPI's survey list included:
T.G.I. Friday's "Lite" garden burger had twice as much fat as the menu claimed. Still, CSPI said, with 19 grams of fat, it's far better than a Big Mac with fries.
The lowest marks went to Big Boy's "Health Smart" grilled chicken mozzarella, which had 23 grams of fat, 9 grams more than the menu says.
Also ranking low was Chi Chi's or El Torito's chicken quesadilla lite, which had two McDonald's Quarter Pounders worth of fat.
The bottom line, Hurley said, is to "go ahead and order off the healthy menu. You're going to get a healthier meal. But don't take the numbers for granted. It may not be as healthy as the menu promises." (94K AIFF sound or 94K WAV sound)
Hurley warned consumers that they should look out for chefs who may get a little carried away with sauces and dressings, despite restaurants' good intentions.
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