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    Calorie Counts Are Helpful, But Not The Answer

    Starbucks caloriesI know, I know.  I have been — and still am — a strong supporter of mandatory calorie labeling at fast food establishments and chain restaurants since day one.

    I am, however, concerned that too many people view caloric awareness as the sole key to health.

    While it certainly helps to know that breakfast item A can save you 400 more calories than breakfast item B, there are other important factors to keep in mind.

    Take a look at some items that are calorically decent but nutritionally horrific!

    Remember that for saturated fat, someone on a 2,000 calorie diet should not surpass 20 grams a day.  While I believe that value can be more flexible if saturated fats are mostly coming from cocoa or coconuts, the items listed below contain vast amounts of the very atherogenic saturated fats in dairy.

    For sodium, the recommended limit is set at 2,400 milligrams.

    Au Bon Pain:

    • Mac & cheese soup: 442 calories; 16.5 grams saturated fat


    • Guiltless Grill chicken salad: 361 calories; 1,385 mg sodium


    • Broccoli and cheddar soup: 374 calories; 19.5 grams saturated fat
    • Chicken wings & buffalo sauce appetizer: 300 calories; 1,940 milligrams sodium
    • Side of everything hash browns with onions, cheese, and gravy: 480 calories; 3,820 milligrams sodium (!!)

    Dunkin’ Donuts:

    • Strawberry coolatta (16 ounces): 300 calories; 16 teaspoons of added sugar

    Olive Garden:

    • Minestrone soup: 100 calories; 1,090 milligrams sodium

    Panera Bread Company:

    • Clam chowder: 320 calories; 18.7 grams saturated fat
    • French onion soup (with croutons and cheese): 174 calories; 1,784 milligrams sodium


    • Chicken noodle soup: 260 calories; 2,580 milligrams sodium
    • Fat-free balsamic vinaigrette: 120 calories; 1,170 milligrams sodium; 4 teaspoons added sugar

    Red Lobster:

    • Broiled seafood platter: 280 calories; 1,660 milligrams sodium

    While calorie counts are helpful for weight concerns, health is about many other factors.  Even if, down the road, all chain restaurants in the entire country provide calorie information, it is not a green light to make them a dietary staple.



    1. Jessie said on January 11th, 2010

      This reminds me of those “eat this not that” books. While those are good for if you are in a bind and are stuck with fast food, or other bad choices, they arent very good for other occasions.

      They may tell you to eat a double cheeseburger instead of a whopper, but really…that should only be if you HAVE to make the decision between the two. Dont be thinking that a double cheeseburger is healthy…

    2. Christine said on January 12th, 2010

      sorry but…that picture you used for the post? it’s making me TOTALLY hungry. LOL. wow, that chocolate sandcastle donut is looking really good right now. *drool*

    3. Christine said on January 12th, 2010

      …but geez 480 calories! that’s like 1/3rd of the calories i should be having in a day! that is ridiculous! where does it all come from? it’s so little! it must be totally filled up with oil.

      …but oil is so tasty…

      *still drools*

    4. Ken Leebow said on March 12th, 2010


      You are correct, however, typically, not always, as you have pointed out, if it is low in calorie count and sugar, it’s a safe bet the other bad stuff is not in the ingredients.

      And the examples you provide are all junk food providers. So, I guess the moral of the story is: “don’t eat junk food”.

      And the point Jessie makes is very valid. Here’s one example of that: http://bit.ly/a0OCzI

      Kindest regards,

      Ken Leebow

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