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If you usually enjoy an appetizer before your main course, you might want to rethink your order.

Consider that most starters at full-service restaurant chains deliver at least 500 calories, and many clock in at over 1,000. Add a main course and a drink and you'll be lucky to walk out for less than 2,000 calories.

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To find out how many calories and how much fat and sodium restaurant appetizers serve up, I checked out nutrition information posted on the websites of five popular restaurant chains: Kelsey's, Milestones, The Keg Steakhouse, Boston Pizza and Earls.

A few years ago you'd be hard pressed to cite the nutrient breakdown for restaurant meals. Only a few chains were able to direct you to an online nutrition guide. Today, most chains disclose nutrition facts of menu items on their websites. (But you still won't find this information on menus, which would be more helpful.)

If you eat out on a regular basis, I strongly suggest you review the nutrition facts of restaurant fare in advance. Knowing this information could make a big difference to your health.

Who would have guessed that an order of Milestones Mediterranean Bruschetta Flatbread has 840 calories and 2,430 milligrams of sodium? Or that Kelsey's Classic Potato Skins have 940 calories and a full day's worth of fat?

Even some starter salads can do damage. Earls Caesar salad, for example, packs in 553 calories and 51 grams of fat - 12 teaspoons worth. For me that's a meal's worth of calories and almost my daily fat quota.

Among the starters that were breaded, deep-fried or laced with cheese, I managed to find some better-for-you choices. Even so, I suggest you share these appetizers to prevent your meal from becoming a calorie minefield. (Of course, your very best bet for a starter is a side green salad with a vinaigrette.)

When it comes to nutrition, here are some of the worst - and better - choices on menus. To put the following numbers in perspective, the average adult needs about 2,000 calories, 1,500 milligrams of sodium and no more than 65 grams of fat per day.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based dietitian at the Medcan Clinic, is on CTV's Canada AM every Wednesday. Her website is lesliebeck.com.

Follow on Twitter: @lesliebeckrd

 

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