Healthy Dining's expert staff of registered dietitians and master's level health/nutrition professionals consults with each restaurant to find menu items that meet the nutrition criteria outlined below, which are based on many of the recommendations of leading health organizations. Healthy Dining's nutrition staff reviews all menu items before posting them on the site to determine levels of calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium and other nutrients.
Entrées (or full meals) must include at least two of the following:
Fruits and/or Vegetables
Lean Protein (skinless white meat poultry, fish, seafood, beef, pork, tofu, beans, eggs)
Menu items must meet the following criteria:
Entrées (or full meals):
750 calories or less
8 grams of saturated fat or less
Appetizers, side dishes and desserts:
250 calories or less
3 grams of saturated fat or less
If a menu item exceeds only one of these criteria (fat, saturated fat, or calorie) by up to 10%, that item may be included on the website.
Deep fried items (i.e., egg rolls, chicken fingers, tostada shells, etc.) are excluded from the website, except for very small amounts of garnishes, such as wonton strips.
More about the Criteria
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses 2,000 calories per day as a reference level for nutrition labeling. Healthy Dining's upper limit of 750 calories for one meal represents about 37% of total calories for the day - reasonable, because a restaurant meal is generally the largest of the day. Most of the menu items featured on this site have significantly fewer than 750 calories.
Leading health organizations recommend that total fat be limited to 20 to 35% of calories. Assuming 2,000 calories per day, the recommended fat intake for a full day is between 44 and 78 grams. The Healthy Dining fat guideline for one meal is 25 grams or fewer. Most of the menu items featured on this site have considerably fewer than 25 grams of fat.
Leading health organizations recommend that saturated fat be limited to 10% of total calories. Assuming 2,000 calories per day, the maximum recommended saturated fat intake for a full day would be 22 grams. Healthy Dining's saturated fat guideline for one meal is set at 8 grams or fewer of saturated fat for the meal, again assuming the restaurant meal accounts for the largest of the day's meals. Most of the menu items featured on this site contain significantly fewer than 8 grams of saturated fat.
Are these items "healthy?"
The menu items featured on this website are among the best choices (based on the criteria identified above) available at each participating restaurant for the majority of individuals looking to improve their diets. However, please note that:
Daily nutritional needs vary, and it is each individual's personal responsibility to choose foods that meet his or her unique nutritional needs. Consult your physician and/or dietitian for guidance.
Many of the dishes listed on this website are high in sodium, and they are, therefore, inappropriate for those individuals who want or need to limit sodium intake. Sodium values are listed, so that such individuals can make informed choices.
Some dishes listed may be higher in other nutrients – such as protein, sugar, carbohydrates, or even fiber – than is appropriate for individuals with certain conditions.
The FDA has very strict criteria for any food or meal designated as "healthy."Most of the menu items featured on this site do not meet the FDA criteria for "healthy" and neither the restaurants nor Healthy Dining claims that the featured items meet the FDA's criteria for "healthy." The criteria for this website focus on lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, calories, fat and saturated fat, whereas the FDA's criteria for "healthy"; also include cholesterol and sodium. So that a sufficient variety of items can be listed, the criteria on this site do not include cholesterol and sodium. However, values for sodium and cholesterol are posted, so that consumers can make informed choices.