This is a series of articles published in Men's Health called Eat This Not That:

Secrets That Restaurants Don't Want You To Know
Posted Mon, Sep 08, 2008, 7:00 pm PDT

Restaurants have one major purpose: to stuff you with as much food as they possibly can. If they do that, they achieve their primary business goal, which is to lighten your wallet.

But while they’re doing that, they’re also using their best marketing tricks, craftiest numerical switcheroos, and most dastardly dietary stratagems to swap unhealthy, cheap ingredients for more expensive, wholesome ones. The result: bloated bottom lines — for their budgets, and for their customers. But we don’t want to let that happen to you, which is why we’ve spent the last two years researching all the ways restaurants try to sabotage your food choices.

Below you’ll find a sampling of the fruits of our long labor: some of the new secrets the restaurant-chain gang doesn’t want you to know. They’re only a few of the many ways restaurants fatten up their customers for the sales slaughter. Heed the warnings and you (and your family) can make it through the drive-thru alive.

1. Baskin-Robbins doesn't want you to know that.....

Sometimes a drink can have fruit in the title, but not in the cup. For instance, the top four ingredients in its Blue Raspberry Fruit Blast were Sierra Mist soda, water, sugar, and corn syrup. Since we first called the company out on this fruitless horror, Baskin-Robbins discontinued the Blue Raspberry Fruit Blast. The company also began listing all nutrition and ingredient information online. We call that progress.

If you’re looking for a real fruit smoothie, visit Jamba Juice. Just remember to check those calorie counts, so you don’t over-indulge.

2. Papa John's doesn't want you to know that...

Unlike rival chains such as Domino's, it has made little effort to introduce healthier options. After we goaded them on their slow pace of innovation, Papa John's did introduce whole grain wheat crust pizzas last May. Now, if only Papa would toss a thin-crust version into the mix and alter the recipe for sides like cheesesticks, which are loaded down with more than 2,900 milligrams of sodium!

3. Fuddruckers doesn't want you to know...

The fat content of its 1-pound burgers. We contacted our local Fuddruckers restaurant and were told that the nutritional information was available on the chain's Web site (it's not). The corporate office later responded that providing such information would be "very extensive and timely." We're pretty sure he meant "very expensive and time-consuming." How's that for a Freudian slip?

4. Panera Bread doesn't want you to know that...

The synthetic food colorings in its pastries have been linked to irritability, restlessness, and sleep disturbances in children. And British researchers found that artificial food colorings and preservatives in the diets of 3-year-olds caused an increase in hyperactive behavior. The same ingredients appear in fast-food items like mayonnaise, M&M Blizzards, and McDonald's shakes.

On Panera's Web site, you can track down calories, fat, sugar, and other nutritional numbers. If you look hard enough you'll find ingredient lists, too — and note that a few items still contain artificial coloring. Disappointing. If you want to cut out the artificial stuff entirely, head over to Chipotle: The restaurant uses no artificial colorings or flavorings. Just make sure you saw their burritos, which can have more than 1,000 calories, in half.

5. Chevy's Fresh Mex doesn't want you to know ...

How its tortillas stack up nutritionally. The chain says it provides "nutritional information regarding calories, fat, protein & carbohydrates for some of our most popular items" — the chicken, steak, and shrimp fajitas, for example — on its Web site. But the numbers provided don't include the tortilla: an essential component typically bloated with fat and carbs. When we called a New York Chevy’s for more information, a server told us he couldn't find that info on the in-house menu, either, which would seem to be a violation of New York city regulations. He did direct us to the same misleading nutritional information on the company's Web site. Gee, thanks.

6. Applebee’s, IHOP, Olive Garden, Outback, Red Lobster, and T.G.I. Friday’s don’t want you to know ...

The nutritional impact of their dishes. Despite the fact that we continued to pester each company, they all were mum about their nutritional information. So we had it nutritionally analyzed on our own. We may not be in this fix for long, however. New York City regulations that went into effect in July require all restaurants with 15 or more branches nationally to post calorie counts on their menus.

After tracking down every last dish, we can see what they were hiding: At Friday’s, no fewer than nine sandwiches and 10 appetizers topple the 1,000-calorie barrier; at IHOP, the “healthiest” entrée-size salad has a staggering 1,050 calories; and at Outback, even a simple order of salmon will wipe out 75% of your day’s caloric allotment.

For more restaurant industry secrets that will freak the weight right off of you, check out these other dubious restaurant secrets that are being hidden from you!

And lose weight in record time by staying away from the unhealthiest drinks in America! They can be responsible for causing you to gain a few pounds of fat — a month!

And now that you’re aware of the danger, do us all a favor: if you notice other big fat restaurant lies, let us know. Likewise, if you’ve found ways to cut through the fast-food jungle without getting eaten, let us know that, too. When it comes to the battle of the restaurant bulge, we’re all in this together.

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