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Ask Dr. Gourmet

I am writing to inquire about the nutrition information for a meal that I love from Outback Steakhouse and was hoping you would be able to provide me with the nutritional breakdown for the meal.

I usually start with a house salad with croutons but without any cheese and I order of the fat free tangy tomato dressing on the side.

I also love their bread which is a small loaf that I can eat by myself.

For the meal itself, I order the salmon without butter which comes with vegetables (of which I would prefer them with the butter but usually order it without but am curious as to what the nutritional breakdown is for both with and without the butter) as well as a Jacket Baked Potato without butter (they do roll their potatoes in margarine and then with sea salt but I eat the inside of the potato itself without butter and also eat the skin.)

If you would be able to provide me with the nutritional breakdown for this meal, I would be ever so grateful. Unfortunately, Outback does not provide a listing for their foods.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

This is a major problem with chain restaurants such as Outback. Many did offer nutrition facts at one time, but they have since stopped providing the information. I believe this is because they feel you might be discouraged by how many calories are in their food and not choose their restaurant. Judging from how vigorously they have fought having to provide the information, which is becoming law in some areas, this is probably not too far from the truth.

That said, Outback is one of those who goes halfway, giving only guidelines as to how you might eat healthy at their restaurants.

Because of some of the cooking processes at such restaurants there's a fair amount of risk. Your mention of the potato cooked with margarine and salt is an example, and it's a very common technique in restaurants. It appears that the sweet potato is not, however, and there's more fiber in the sweet potato so you may find it a better choice. Having the bread and the potato is probably too much in the way of starch for a meal for most folks. The sweet potato is the better choice of the two.

Generally speaking, portions at such restaurants are about twice the normal size. For instance, they report the diabetic exchange lists on some of their items. The rule of thumb is one meat exchange is equal to one ounce of meat. Your salmon is 8 exchanges so that's about eight ounces. That's twice the normal 4 ounce serving of fish.

With such things as the steak and fish, the cooks will often liberally salt the meat before cooking. You could ask for them to not do this and to not cook with any added butter or fat.

All in all I would say that you have made good choices for a nutrition minefield such as Outback. As a guess, here's what you have been eating based on the information from their web site (This doesn't include any salt or margarine that might be used in cooking):

8 ounces salmon
8 ounce baked potato (this may be larger at many restaurants)
8 ounces broccoli
2 ounce bread

Nutrition Information from Outback SteakhouseThis doesn't include any salt or margarine that might be used in cooking.

Much of the fat is in the 10 grams of good monounsaturated fats found in salmon. Leaving off the bread will save you about 200 calories, and this then becomes a pretty good meal and 590 calories for your main course meal.

It's a shame that we have to fight to get such information on the foods we eat in restaurants. The folks at Outback should be ashamed of themselves for not being more forthcoming. Even McDonald's makes it easier to find this information. Other poor restaurant choices that offer no or only partial nutrition information are Applebee's, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Ruby Tuesday.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet