Free appetizers can cost your body big-time

February 24, 2011 8:27:56 PM PST
We've all had the experience of going to a restaurant, famished and waiting for those pre-meal munchies. While those appetizers are free for your wallet, your waistline will take a hit if you indulge too much.

Who doesn't love chips and salsa? They're fried and at a lot of Houston restaurants, they're free.

Free appetizers are hard to resist. But as we found out, if they're high fat, they're really not free at all. Many are costing us big time in calories!

A basket of fried tortilla is about 500 calories. One cheddar biscuit is 150 calories and one garlic breadstick is also 150 calories.

"If you have a basket of chips, you can easily eat in calories something that's equivalent to your whole meal before the meal gets here," Dr. Ken Goodrick said.

All of us struggle with temptation, including Goodrick, who does research on obesity.

"I happen to like bread a lot. If you guys went away, I'd eat the whole thing," he said.

Even something as innocuous as pita bread -- if you eat enough of it before a meal, it can double your total calories.

So why it is so hard to say no to those high fat foods? Blame your brain!

"The upper part of the brain, the intelligent part, 'I shouldn't eat high -at foods,'" Dr. Goodrick said. "The lower part of the brain remembers how wonderful it felt and how wonderful it tasted to eat the high-fat food."

So what can you do? Experts offer these tips: wave off the fried appetizers.

"Take a slice of bread and have them take a loaf away, so that is not there tempting you," Memorial Hermann RD UTHealth Dietitian Carol Wolin-Riklin said.

Beware of anything with a creamy salad dressing.

"The ladle of dressing has like 1,200 calories," Dr. Goodrick said.

And watch the cheese.

"Anytime you hear the word cheese you should think fat," he said.

We found very few restaurants offering healthy appetizers for free, so if you want to break the high fat food cycle, be prepared to say, "No thanks."