“Lighter Take” is Not So Light!

Original Image by m01229 via Flickr
Original Image by m01229 via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Unlike a typical restaurant review, which includes the evaluation of wait staff service, ambiance, and/or décor, we’re reviewing restaurants a little bit differently! Sensational Sustenance is redirecting one’s attention to the nutrient content on specific menu items! We aim to not only evaluate the flavors in the entrees given, but how nutrient rich they are in relation to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans using our own proprietary score sheet:  Healthy Food Critic’s Ultimate Review Form for Restaurant Entrees.  I recently visited Maggiano’s,  ready for my senses to be wowed.

For those not familiar with Maggiano’s, it is an Italian chain restaurant that offers simple, authentic Italian dishes. While Maggiano’s originated in Oak Brook, Illinois, with consumer favor, it has expanded nationally, with locations everywhere from California to Georgia to Massachusetts.  Recently, Maggiano’s has advertised their “Lighter Take” menu options, promising that while portion sizes haven’t been compromised, the chefs have utilized new cooking techniques to satisfy the “toughest critics.” With only a handful of these “Lighter Take” options, I opted for the Lighter Take Fettuccine Alfredo (850 calories), which was described as encompassing “hand cut fettuccine grilled chicken, asparagus and asiago cream sauce.”

When the dish came, it was hard to smell anything specific, with the food lukewarm to taste.  That is not to say that there was a particularly unpleasant odor, but if I were to have to describe the dish by how it smelled it would have been challenging. Being able to appreciate  the aroma of asiago cheese and/or asparagus would have started the dish on a great note and would have elevated my opinion of the dish.  Yet, I was glad the asparagus and parsley were present to give the dish a more visually appealing look with  added textures and colors.

The entrée appeared quickly put together, with the food arranged disproportionately to the right hand side of the bowl.  In addition, the serving bowl itself was larger than needed.  While, the size of the bowl did not hinder my ability to eat the pasta, I would have preferred a smaller size plate to eat from as research shows that eating from a smaller plate increases perceived satiety.

Maggiano’s offers the “choose one Classic Pasta for today and another for tomorrow” option, allowing customers to order one dish to eat at the restaurant and another, potentially different dish, to take home!  Therefore, receiving two dishes for the price of one, at $12.50 of the entree was adequate–I chose to take the “Lighter Take” Baked Ziti home as my complimentary dish. In comparison to the evaluations’ healthy option measures, the fettuccini alfredo did not meet any of the standards below.  Let’s break it down:

Healthy Option Parameters1 Fettuccini Alfredo Nutrient Content
600 calories or less 850 calories
At least 50% is fruit or non-starchy vegetables More than 80% was noodles; sparse amount of asparagus
Grain based item are at least 50% whole grains No indication of whole grain noodles used
Total fat is less than 30% of total calories Total fat was 36% of calories–850 calories had 34 g of fat
Sodium is less than 750 mg 1530 mg
Low in added sugars N/A
Less than 10% of calories from saturated fat 18 g of fat=18(9)=162 g of fat162/850=19% of calories from saturated fat

1Healthy Option Parameters are in conjunction with the Dietary Guidelines’ measures for a balanced, healthy meal.

As you can see, none of the healthy option parameters  were met, which does not provide any convincing evidence that this dish is healthy.  I consider myself an alfredo “aficionado” and I found the sauce to be on the blander side. The bland sauce did not add too much to the entree’s flavor.  Thankfully, the parts of the entree that I found worked best” were the amount of salty tasted and portion size! As an asparagus fanatic, I would have loved to have seen more on the plate, but I was still content with the amount provided.

Overall, I rated my entree as ‘liking slightly” as  I was underwhelmed with this generic entree that didn’t pique my taste buds’  nor did I walk away convinced this entree belonged under the “Lighter Take” section, with many of the healthy option parameters not met.  After the underwhelming combination of flavors and overall experience, Maggiano’s lighter take on the alfredo wasn’t “light” enough in nutrients for me to be included on the “Lighter Take” menu.  With the “regular” fettuccini alfredo listed as 1570 calories on Maggiano’s website, I don’t want to think about what the fat, sodium and/or nutrient content of that dish is!

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