T.G.I. Fridays is a popular chain restaurant offering typical American dining. The chain is easily recognizable by its red and white striped canopies, antique style decorations and brightly colored Tiffany lamps. T.G.I. Friday’s is a popular family restaurant because it offers American style food at reasonable prices. The restaurant features a large menu with a special emphasis on alcoholic drinks. While T.G.I. Friday’s features some low carb items on its menu, it also offers many unhealthy choices as well (T.G.I. Fridays, 2009). A recent visit to T.G.I. Friday’s provides a clear picture regarding the types of foods the restaurant serves as well as the lack of balanced nutrition of many meals.
The Tuscan Portobello Melt with French fries was enjoyed on a recent visit to T.G.I. Friday’s. This delicious sandwich featured Portobello mushroom slices between several layers of Provolone and Monterey Jack cheese. It also included roasted onions and tomatoes and was served between two slices of very buttery sourdough bread (The Daily Plate, 2009). The overall calorie count of the sandwich alone is 854. The sandwich has 48 grams of total fat, 76 grams of carbohydrates and 29 grams of protein. When the French fries are added to the sandwich the meal becomes even more laden with fat. A serving of French fries from T.G.I. Friday’s has 140 calories, 8 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein. Therefore, the entire food portion of the meal includes 994 calories, 56 grams of fat, 90 grams of carbohydrates and 31 grams of protein. When the two sodas that were consumed with the meal are added the calorie total reaches 1234 and also increases the sugar content of the meal to 82 grams. Each twelve ounce serving of soda contains 120 calories and 41 grams of sugar.
The Portobello Tuscan Melt sandwich is tasty but cannot be considered a balanced meal. The amount of fat in the sandwich is eighty percent of the recommended daily fat allowance for adults. Further, when broken down, the sandwich is fifty percent fat, approximately twenty-five percent carbohydrates and approximately twenty-five percent protein. The added onions and tomatoes add small amounts of necessary nutrients and minerals such as Vitamin C but in such small portions that they do not balance out with the fat content of the sandwich. Additionally, the buttery slices of sourdough bread increase the saturated fat content tremendously without adding any beneficial fiber. The sodium content of the sandwich exceeds the recommendations for a balanced diet because the high sodium levels in butter and cheese cause the sandwich to be very salty as well. The USDA recommends that fat be consumed from sources such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils and eliminate fats from butter, shortening and lard (USDA, 2009). Therefore this meal cannot be considered balanced based on the high levels of fat from unhealthy sources. Further, the USDA recommends that balanced meals include whole grains and fruits and vegetables (USDA, 2009). The sourdough bread is not a whole grain and the small portion of tomatoes and onions do not even constitute an entire serving of vegetables.
When the French fries are added to the sandwich, the fat content of the meal reaches almost what the total recommended daily allowance is for an adult. Therefore, this one meal includes almost enough fat for an entire twenty-four hour period. Further, French fries have very little nutritional value in the first place because of the nature of a carbohydrate filled potato. When it is fried and salted it loses any nutritional value it may have had and cannot be considered part of a balanced diet. French fries do not have significant levels of any vitamins or minerals and this is another reason why they cannot be considered part of a balanced diet. Finally, if the French fries are eaten with ketchup the meal increases in sodium content as well.
The two sodas that were consumed with the meal increase the sugar content although sugar levels from the food were not significantly high to begin with. However, sodas increase calorie content without adding any nutrition to the meal. The calories are considered empty calories and the only thing that soda contributes to the meal is increased sugar levels. While the sodas do not have any fat, they also do not have any beneficial fiber, vitamins or minerals. Overall, the meal would have been improved if the sandwich would have been eaten on wheat bread toasted without butter and with added vegetables. The sandwich should have been eaten with steamed vegetables or rice instead of French fries. Finally, the meal would have been more balanced if water, iced tea or one hundred percent fruit juice would have been consumed instead of soda.
The entire menu at T.G.I. Friday’s is problematic with only a few exceptions. The menu features a great deal of fried and fatty food options that have very little nutritional value. The menu is broken down into several categories including appetizers, salads, soups, sides, seafood, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, chicken and desserts. They also have an extensive alcoholic beverage menu as well as a “Lighter Side of Friday’s” menu (T.G.I. Friday’s, 2009). Some examples of unhealthy appetizer choices include fried green beans, potato skins, onion rings and fried mozzarella sticks. In fact, every option on the appetizer menu is either deep fried or pan fried including the macaroni and cheese (T.G.I. Friday’s, 2009). The salad and soup options are not any better nutritionally speaking. The Chicken Caesar Salad is topped with chicken, parmesan cheese and butter fried croutons. The Caesar dressing adds saturated fat and calories. Similarly, the soup options include broccoli cheese which is heavy on the cheese and light on the broccoli. These so-called “healthy” choices are not so healthy after all (T.G.I. Friday’s, 2009). Finally, the burger and sandwich options include large portions of fatty meats, high fat cheeses and butter toasted breads. The addition of mayonnaise or onion rings on some of the choices makes them even less healthy. The only option that seemed remotely decent was the turkey burger served on a whole wheat bun (T.G.I. Friday’s, 2009).
T.G.I. Friday’s also offers a “Lighter Side of Friday’s” menu which is designed to include healthier options than the regular menu (T.G.I. Friday’s, 2009). However, it only includes two items: Shrimp Key West and Classic Sirloin and Broccoli. The Shrimp Key West includes two skewers of seasoned shrimp served with lime juice and broccoli. This meal is much more balanced than the Portobello Tuscan Sandwich meal. Shrimp is a low fat, high protein choice that is served without the additional of butter or cream sauces. The broccoli adds fiber, vitamins and minerals to the meal. The Classic Sirloin and Broccoli is also a better choice but is not as balanced as the Shrimp Key West. Steak adds a lot of saturated fat to the meal but the broccoli increases the fiber, vitamin and mineral content that was lacking from the Portobello Tuscan Melt meal (T.G.I. Friday’s, 2009).
Americans eat out in significant numbers but nutrition environments in restaurants are poorly understood (Saelens, et al, 2007). The availability of nutritional information, healthy food options and the promotion of a healthy foods menu are all believed to have an impact on the overall nutritional environment in restaurants (Saelens, et al, 2007). Further, people who eat in restaurants on a regular basis have much lower intakes of fruits, vegetables and fiber than people who do not eat out regularly (Saelens, et al, 2007). Similarly, people who eat out a lot also consume more saturated fat and sodium. Restaurants that make their nutritional information accessible either on the Internet or in the restaurant have better success at promoting healthy food options (Saelens, et al, 2007). T.G.I. Friday’s may contribute to unhealthy eating because their nutritional information is not available in the restaurant and can only be found on the Internet. However, the nutritional information is not available on the T.G.I. Friday’s website but rather a separate link. Therefore, when making choices in the restaurant, diners are often unable to determine which menu options are the most balanced choices.
T.G.I. Friday’s also makes it difficult for diners to choose balanced meals because they simply to not offer many healthy choices (Saelens, et al, 2007). Many of their options are fried or served with butter. These types of barriers make it difficult to make healthy choices. Further, the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant encourages diners to say awhile which also encourages them to eat more. Similarly, the emphasis placed on the alcoholic beverage menu also encourages diners to enjoy several drinks which also motivates them to eat more. When the only choices are unhealthy foods it is obvious that diners will make unhealthy choices and consume unbalanced meals.
Saelens, Brian E.; Glanz, Karen; Sallis, James F.; Frank, Lawrence D. (2007). Nutrition
environment measures study in restaurants. American Journal of Preventative
Medicine, 32 (4): 273 – 281.
T.G.I. Friday’s. (2009). The menu. Retrieved on March 8, 2009 from
The Daily Plate. (2009). Food search results for T.G.I. Friday’s. Retrieved on March 8, 2009
USDA. (2009). Inside the pyramid. Retrieved on March 8, 2009 from