A couple of weeks ago, I figured my 2-day weight gain must have been related to the Chicken Parmigiana I ate for lunch one day. I’m a curious person by nature, and becoming much more interested in knowing the nutrition information for the foods I eat, so I decided to investigate the caloric value for my meal.
I started my search on Olive Garden’s website. Sadly, after drilling through the site map and searching for nutrition information, it appears Olive Garden’s site lists only menu items and descriptions, but no nutrition information. I recalled Consumerist had posted a huge table of restaurants’ nutrition information and checked it to make sure I wasn’t missing it – turns out they came up empty-handed too.
Recalling that Starbucks prints a pamphlet available at stores, I decided to visit my local Olive Garden. I received this one-page, front-and-back pamphlet titled “Garden Fare” that listed only “low fat” menu items:
Surely, a restaurant chain as large as Olive Garden would have more nutrition information available than this paltry disclosure! I called the Guest Relations number listed on the pamphlet (1-800-331-2729) and asked the person who answered the phone if they have more nutrition information available than what’s listed on this pamphlet – no, the Guest Relations person replied. I asked if she had nutrition information available for the Chicken Parmigiana I previously ate – no, she replied, the pamphlet listed all the nutrition information she had available. I wonder what kinds of questions these people are supposed to be able to answer?
So, this pamphlet is all I’ve got to work with. There are some interesting things to glean from it – for instance, the breadsticks that are automatically left at every table is not listed. A glance at calorie-count.com lists the breadsticks with 140 calories per breadstick. Holy crap! Remember that Subway’s 6″ Italian bread loaf has 200 calories, and there’s gotta be at least 3x, if not 4x, the amount of bread in a 6″ loaf. Breadsticks are one of those uncounted calories – they appear, you munch while talking and waiting for the real food. At 140 calories per breadstick, you can’t afford not to count these. Wonder what ingredients are lurking in Olive Garden breadsticks…
Here’s something else that’s interesting – they list Italian dressing, but not the nutrition information. Serving size is listed as 2 fluid ounces, which equals 4 tablespoons. Again turning to calorie-count, I see Olive Garden’s regular dressing is 90 calories per 2 tblsp, or 180 calories per serving. CalorieKing lists Olive Garden’s light dressing at 37 calories per “serving” (I’m assuming this is 2 tblsp), or 74 per serving. Compare this to something like Kraft’s Zesty Italian at 109 calories per 2 tblsp, and Olive Garden’s isn’t that bad. They do define their serving size as twice a normal serving size, but the salads are big enough to share anyway. That is, assuming their serving size of salad is one bowl…
And that Chicken Parmigiana? No nutrition information. The closest I can find is CalorieKing’s listing for Eggplant Parmigiana, which lists a serving at 793 calories. 1 oz of eggplant is 10 calories; 1 oz of chicken is 47 calories. The chicken pieces were definitely larger than my palm, so I’d guess they were roughly 8 oz each – 80 calories of eggplant versus 376 calories of chicken. Substitute chicken for eggplant in CalorieKing’s listing for Eggplant Parmigiana, and you’ve got a meal with 1089 calories – and that may not even include the pasta! Even eating half of my meal, I consumed 220 calories plus the pasta – no wonder I gained weight two days in a row. And to think I used to eat at least two breadsticks, half of a salad, an appetizer and an entire meal – easily 1800 calories in one sitting.
Definitely not conducive to my new healthy lifestyle.
Update – it appears Olive Garden lists the Garden Fare pamphlet on their site at
http://www.olivegarden.com/menus/garden_fare/. How about giving us all your nutritional information, Olive Garden? What do you have to hide?