If you're eating out in Atlanta, you have a wide variety of excellent choices. But there's one thing you should avoid when you sit down in a restaurant – the free bread or chips you're likely offered almost immediately. This is true whether you're dining at a chain like Red Lobster or Outback or a local restaurant like BLT Steak.
These goodies are a way for restaurants to show some hospitality right at the start, and they can be quite tasty. Smearing some butter on your bread or dipping your chips in guacamole can make this indulgence taste even better. But if you can back away from the bread bowl before you eat your meal, you'll be doing your health a favor. Here's why:
Bread and chips are not usually the best nutritional choice.
In most cases, you're adding fat, calories and sodium to your meal before you ever really get started. Olive Garden bread sticks, for example, come with a garlic-butter spread on them and have 140 calories each, along with 2.5 grams of fat. Each breadstick also has 460 mgs of sodium, which is 20 percent of the recommended daily allowance of no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day for healthy adults. Adults with high blood pressure should get even less sodium a day – a maximum of 1,500 mg.
If you're thinking chips might be healthier, that's often not the case. At Baja Fresh, for example, 5 ounces of tortilla chips have 740 calories, 34 grams of fat and 170 mg of sodium.
They can make you hungrier.
While it may seem counterintuitive, most breads can make you hungrier rather than fill you up. They're carbohydrates, which raise your blood sugar level quickly. This triggers your body's production of insulin, which attempts to move the sugar out of your blood and into your cells, where it's used for energy. If your blood sugar drops, you can experience rebound hunger.
What should I do instead?
Ideally, skip the appetizer. You can ask your server not to bring them out or to remove them if they're placed on the table before you can ask.
If you just can't give up your bread or chips, a surprising way to lessen the negative effect may be to eat them after your meal. A recent study published in Diabetes Care raised this possibility. More analysis may be needed, but it certainly can't hurt to try having the bread after your meal. If you want it by that point, at least it would be a conscious choice to eat something you truly enjoy, rather than mindlessly noshing on bread or chips as soon as you're seated.