Chain restaurants get a bad rap. It seems that not a day goes by when there isn’t an “Eat This Not That” article where you see that some chain eatery is now serving up deep-fried potatoes dipped in chocolate and covered in whipped cream then deep fried again for a whopping 3,000 calories a bite. And it’s true that when you’re at a chain restaurant, you have to beware of calorie traps like portions massive enough to feed a hungry pack of wolves and bread with honey butter that just keeps coming no matter how much you stuff into your body.
But chain restaurants have their good points, too (like bread with honey butter that just keeps coming no matter how much you stuff into your body). On a Friday afternoon when you’ve got fifteen co-workers who all want to go out for a drink and want to sit together, where are you going to go? That intimate Italian place in the romantically lit alley? No, you and your whole sales team are going to head a block away to Chili’s, where you can get two for one margaritas and split plates of nachos at one giant table. You’re not putting them out at a chain restaurant to ask them to accommodate that many with no reservation. It’s their job; that’s why chains exist.
That being said, it can be easy to shrug and say “What the heck?” when you’re already shoveling in Cheddar Bay Biscuits two at a time in your local Red Lobster and order a drink that will seriously derail your diet. Many chain restaurant cocktails, like margaritas and piña coladas, rely on pre-made mix that’s mostly sugar. In fact, it’s easy to drink as much as half a cup of sugar in a 16-ounce piña colada. Add that to the fact that you’ll probably have more than one, and you could be consuming more than a day’s recommended calories in your cocktails alone.
But that’s not how it has to be! Chain restaurants are increasingly adding “skinny” cocktails to their menus, so there are a lot of drink options under the 200-calorie mark. And when in doubt, just remember to keep it simple. A margarita on the rocks will always have fewer calories than some ice cream filled milkshake masquerading as a cocktail. Plus, if you avoid the following chain restaurant calorie bombs, you’ll have more room left for what matters: nachos, obviously.
8. Chili’s Strawberry Margarita
At 387 calories, this margarita doesn’t sound that bad, until you consider the fact that a standard meal should only be around 500 calories. And have you ever had just one margarita?
7. P.F. Chang’s Mai Tai
Sure, Mai Tais are delicious, but are they as good as an entire order of shrimp dumplings and two spring rolls? The Mai Tai is 433 calories, more than the dumplings and spring rolls combined.