Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eat Food, Not Junk

Perhaps you have deduced that I love a good food indulgence. What with the inhabitants of my apartment's new obsession with www.smittenkitchen.com. Indulgences aren't just greasy or caloric food in my world. They have to be awesome greasy or caloric food. McDonald's rarely makes the cut. I find it surprising that food critics in an increasingly foodie city like to indulge in items from Chipotle or Krispy Kreme. Mall food? Really? I love a good donut, cheeseburger or foods that come a la mode but Dunkin? Wendy's? Dairy Queen? What a waste of perfectly good indulgence calories. (I am not saying I don't go to Dunkin on occasion, or even Dairy Queen or Chipotle.)

There is a whole movement out there about what indulgences to indulge in. I'm totally against the "Eat This, Not That" concept. First, it teaches nutritionally confused (fat) Americans to choose donuts over bagels instead of understanding the concept that you can eat what you want as long as you think of your calories in terms of the entire day or the entire week along with the nutrition content of the meals. Choosing a bagel for breakfast isn't going to kill you. What matters is if you follow that with a cheeseburger for lunch and so on.

Men's Health came out with a list of the 20 worst restaurant foods in America. Lets go to the tape.

Suppose you follow their replacement suggestions in the lower left hand boxes and for the sake of the argument you've eaten out every meal. Maybe you're on vacation or traveling for work, bear with me.

According to the ETNT ("Eat This, Not That") people your choices for breakfast are Cheesecake Factory or IHOP. On the bad choices list are a Colorado Omelet or french toast with bacon Your 'smart' choices are Cheesecake Factory's create your own omelet where you will choose spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms or IHOP's Garden Scramble For Me. To give them the benefit of the doubt we'll pick the last one since it has fewer calories.

So you've gone to IHOP and eaten the garden scramble and you've probably had something like coffee to drink. Lets say you put two creamers in there (we'll assume you're not putting in sugar, again, benefit of the doubt). Lets also ignore the fact that the online menu for IHOP suggests that the calorie and nutrition of the list is wrong, but whatever. We'll also ignore the fact that if you're human you probably ordered some bacon or sausage and the scramble is made with egg substitute which means you're short changing yourself on the protein which is what you really need out of eggs anyway.

At the end of this meal with the scramble and the creamer (you're annoyed that you didn't get to eat bacon and) you've consumed 430 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat, 1,220 milligrams of sodium and 53 grams of carbohydrates in the food and 30 calories, 2 grams of unsaturated fat and 2 grams of saturated fat in the creamer.

Lets move onto lunch since I'm hoping you're full and didn't need a snack (although with such a crappy amount of protein I'd bet you're starving within an hour or two). Lets assume you skip appetizers entirely (number 18 on the ETNT Men's Health list). There are a number of items they suggest avoiding and lets just say you pick the least caloric one of the entire good choices lunch items list. Lets say you don't want to return to IHOP (it would be way embarrassing to see the same waitress) and that you're not going with the stupid idea that you could eat only a steak with no sides (ahem, good choices in numbers seven and thirteen). In fact, just to throw the ETNT people a bone here, lets pick the only lunch choice that seems like an entire meal. This is number fourteen's Pico Shrimp Tacos with Black Beans and Grilled Veggies from On the Border. Vegetables! Fiber! Omegas! Yes! In this meal, assuming you've consumed the entire thing with only water and no dessert you'll have eaten 490 calories, 5 grams of unsaturated fat, 1 gram of saturated fat and 1,650 milligrams of sodium. Congrats! You've already gone over the daily recommended value of sodium.

Assuming you're capable of holding out until dinner (never in my life have I lived a day without a snack between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner and I often consume a snack at both times, so kudos to you if you have this kind of insane will power) lets move onto your last and final meal of the day. In this scenario you'll be getting no beers with dinner. Sorry, its only to prove my point (which I am really, actually getting to). But, congrats! You'll be eating dessert! Lets again say that you're not eating the stupidest of suggestions like only steak or a sandwich with nothing else. You're left with a salad. No, seriously. You now must go to Cheesecake Factory and order the Chinese Chicken Salad. Also, you're only allowed to eat half. Which, is probably okay since the portions at that restaurant are gigantic (although you're probably hungry what with the lack of protein). At the end of this meal you've eaten 503 calories, 1.5 grams of saturated fat (no idea how many unsaturated since the restaurant wont tell you), 430 milligrams of sodium and 55 grams of carbohydrates.

Now, for the kicker. Oh, dessert, how you kill us, literally. And yet, we love you. Lets ignore number one on the ETNT Men's Health list entirely. Since they suggest eating cheesecake as a good choice alternative to a giant brownie sundae. You could easily walk your salty self over to Coldstone and purchase the good choice alternative of number 2. A small Strawberry Banana smoothie (because when you walk into Coldstone that's totally what you want to walk out the door with). Hurrah, at dinner you had three fruits. If you can call it that. You ate strawberries and bananas in your smoothie and a mandarin orange garnish in your salad. Congrats to you Men's Health follower. You had dessert for 220 calories, 1.5 grams of unsaturated fat and 34 grams of sugar (we'll count these as carbohydrates).

In total you've eaten 1,673 calories, 8.5 grams of both saturated and unsaturated fat, 142 grams of carbohydrates and 3,300 milligrams of sodium. There are a number of age groups in both genders even in the sedentary lifestyle department where the calorie content is actually okay (if you've read this blog in the past you know that this is 273 calores too many for me, an average sided 20-something female). Although, remember you ate an egg scramble with no sides, half a salad for dinner and ordered a fruit smoothie for dessert. Your fat grams could be worse for just about every group. Even your carbohydrates are probably okay for most. Your sodium content was completely through the roof and the nutritional value of most of these things was pretty low. At least there were a few vegetables in the fajitas (I refuse to count the salad as a vegetable). Although since you packed in so few vitamins you'll feel like crap. You will also enjoy artery hardening and a slew of other complications from overeating sodium (if you do it often enough).

For the record, I don't think Eat This, Not That is saying they'll solve all your dietary problems. Although it is really frustrating that I discovered ETNT's nutrition facts were lower than the actual restaurant's for just about every item. Dumbing down nutritional information allows Americans to dumb themselves down.

1 comment:

John said...

no rant, here -- just sound good sense, with careful documentation. I observe, however, you eschewed ketchup throughout. For shame.
Welcome to the blogosphere.