Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I can navigate any restaurant, or can I?....

I've been doing the Weight Watchers program and working for Weight Watchers for the better part of a decade now. I've been to countless meetings where hundreds of tips have been shared on navigating the most ferocious, calorie-dense dining establishments. I know all the words to avoid: cream sauce, fried, oil, butter-base, etc. I know about the sauce on-the-side tricks.

I have proclaimed on multiple occasions that there is no restaurant that cannot be made program-friendly. And then came Buca di Beppo. I lost. It won.

I studied the menu for a good 10 to 15 minutes trying to figure out some way to take a single dish and reconcile it with my program. I viewed it as a challenge.

Challenge #1: virtually every dish was served in some variant of a cream sauce combined with a massive quantity of cheese and fatty meat. Low fat salad dressing? No! Maybe a basic fish dish? Hit the road!

Challenge #2: portion quantities were asteroid-sized. Some of these dishes were so large they exerted a gravitational pull. Even the "small" portions were so big they rivaled the size of my 9 year old daughter's head (see photo for size comparison). The "small" salad could have fed a football team.

The chosen solution was a "small" Shrimp Fra Diavolo, shared among two of us. It was advertised as sauteed shrimp with a spicy rosa sauce served over penne pasta. Seemed pretty benign, calorie/fat-wise. However a picture is worth a thousand menu words: observe the photo of this deceptive dish with its ample glaze of oil and what seems like a cheese-like fat residue. Suffice it to say, this was too much for even two of us. I would ball-park the whole bowl at about 35 to 40 POINTS with a big chunk of that coming from oil. (Don't get me wrong -- it was tasty). Never mind the bread served with olive oil or the bruschetta platter someone at the table ordered.
To their credit, the restaurant would suggest that these portions were meant for family-style dining and were not intended to be fully consumed by a single person (unless you were really hungry). Yet, I cannot help but wonder how many of their patrons order one of these beauties and then take out their Clean Plate Club membership cards.


  1. Dear Mr. K:

    I am with you on this one! It has been 11 years since I last ate at B-d-B and I can see it's only gotten crazier over the years. We just did a round of meetings on "restaurant eating" but sometimes there's just no way to get the modifications you need.

    In a situation where my friends and/or family insist on a place like this, I usually just make sure that before I leave home I eat something from the Filling Foods list. That way at the restaurant I am satisfied with just a few bites and can push the plate away.

    Thanks for keepin' it real! These are the challenges we face!

    WWer Leader in San Francisco

  2. Nobody can go to Bupa's and think the meal won't wreak havoc with them! Friends routinely go - knowing they will take home half the meal!

  3. Love Italian; but Bucca is just over the top! It is a red zone restaurant for me and my husband, so we tend to avoid it. There are other choices that won't set me back for what feels like two weeks! ;)

  4. Just found your blog and like it a lot. Thanks for writing it.

    The biggest obstacle for restaurants for me is akin to my obstacle in WW generally which is the need to plan everything. I try to stick to restaurants that have their nutrition information available, but it can be hard if I am caught out and going to a restuarant unexpectedly. Just the other night I went to a restaurant unexpectedly after a meeting ran over long and took away the time I would have used to cook dinner. Well, I thought I was ordering something relatively safe - only to find I had eaten the entire balance of my day's points and 7 of the weekly as well!

  5. B-d-B is best with a big group. Then you take a small portion of a couple items. Still tough, though. Too many temptations.