Doctor Oz was joined by Andrew Knowlton, the Restaurant Editor at Bon Appetit Magazine and frequent guest judge on Iron Chef the TV show, to teach you 5 secrets that restaurants do not want you to know! Everyone enjoys going out to eat for a nice dinner, but do you know what items on the menu are least healthy or which items have the largest markups on the menu? Read these 5 secrets before you go out to another restaurant, and share this article with your friends and loved ones… we don’t want anyone eating expired fish at a restaurant! Dr. Oz was a waiter at Cooper’s Tavern in New York City, to get the low down for us!
Dr. Oz’s 5 Secrets Restaurants Don’t Want You to Know:
1. Not So Special – Restaurant’s Specials of the Day
While some restaurants have seasonal delicacies (asparagus or soft shell crab) or dishes they want to test on their specials menus, other restaurants put their food that has gone bad, spoiled or expired on their specials menu. How do you know if the special of the day is expired food or a special treat? Here are some tips:
a) Beware of the 3 S’s – Spaghetti, Soup and Sauce
If the special is a stew, pasta or chowder, the restaurant could be masking their less fresh ingredients with sauces that will mask their expired ingredients. Beware! Look for whole foods intact!
b) Skip Expensive Items (like Steak) in Sauces
Again, steaks and other foods that are past their prime can be masked by putting them in a sauce. Also try to avoid strange combinations (they gave the example of chicken thighs cooked in marinara and served over spaghetti) – a red flag should go up in your mind when you read this on the specials list.
c) Be Cautious of Shellfish
For example, if the restaurant has mussels on the regular menu AND on the specials menu, you should skip the shellfish because there is likely a reason the restaurant is pushing the mussels!
2. Fishy Seafood
You should think of fish the same way you think of vegetables – you want to eat fish when it is in season so that it is very fresh. Wild fish is the best fish to order at a restaurant for our environment.
a) Pick Small Fish like Sardines
Smaller fish are younger, so they have less of a chance to have diseases than larger fish like tuna. Sardines are great for your heart because of their high levels of antioxidants and Omega-3’s.
b) Skip Fish Past Its Prime
As a fish rots (when it is past its prime), it releases a histamine which can cause an allergic reaction when you eat it. If you get a fast heartbeat, a rash or begin to wheeze, you may have had a fish that was past its prime.
c) Ask Where Shrimp is From
Stick to domestic shrimps at restaurants. Tiger shrimp, for example, are brought in from Thailand or Vietnam, and so they are often raised in dirty environments (and eat their own feces!!) and will not have a great flavor.
3. Contaminated Kitchens
You would think that since the state health board has strict rules about wearing gloves while preparing food, that we would not have to worry about this – but Andrew Knowlton said that most chefs do not wear gloves because they have to feel the food. Here are some hints to determine if a kitchen is clean:
a) Examine the Dining Area
Check to see if the waiters, tables, and restaurant’s dining area look clean or sloppy and dirty.
b) Inspect the Bathroom
Check to be sure the bathroom looks clean and smells fresh. If the bathroom floors are a mess, it is likely that the kitchen is the same way.
4. Menu Markups
I had never heard of “menu engineering,” but everything is thought of – even where dishes are placed on a menu! Here are the traps to avoid when you read a menu at a restaurant:
a) Upper Right & Center of the Menu
Your eyes naturally go to the upper right and center of the menu, and this is where restaurants tend to put the more expensive specials and items. The better deals are going to be towards the bottom left of the menu, so check there first! Also, they know you are drawn to boxes, so you should read carefully if you are looking at a box on the menu.
b) Prices at End of Description
Restaurants will often use the same font and size to place the price at the end of the description of a dish – this helps the reader to be distracted by the price – tricky!
c) Ignore Fancy Descriptions
Restaurants will use fancy descriptions and special flavors to encourage people to pay more money… “Fillet mignon encrusted with Madagascar Pepper” is just a steak with crushed pepper!
d) Skip the 2nd Cheapest Wine
Restaurants know that people do not like to order the cheapest wine on the menu, so many people will order the second cheapest wine. Therefore, restaurants mark-up the second cheapest wine the most.
5. Diet Destroyers
Restaurants want their food to taste very good and are much less concerned about how good the food is for you. Therefore, restaurants will often use lots of fat and salt – including bacon, cream and butter.
a) View Restaurant’s Websites
Chain restaurants often have nutritional information on their websites, so visit a restaurant’s website before going to eat there.
b) Split Your Food
Restaurant portions often contain around 2/3 of the calories you should eat in a day. So instead of eating the full meal, split it with a friend or take half of your food home in a doggie bag.
c) Ask for Healthy Substitutes
Often you can request that your meat or fish be baked or grilled, instead of fried. You can order sauces or salad dressings on the side. And most of the time you can replace fries for some vegetables.