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    Archive for the ‘Chili’s’ Category

    Chili’s? Try Salty’s!

    When it comes to nutritional advice on eating out, the spotlight usually shines brightly — and, many times, solely — on calories.  I don’t necessarily object to that; after all, it is certainly possible to consume three quarters (or a hundred percent, for that matter) of one’s caloric needs in a single restaurant meal these days.

    In some parts of the country, some chain restaurants are legally required to display calorie counts alongside menu items.  In states and cities where this legal requirement is not in play, some of these restaurants voluntarily point out their lower-calorie options (usually grouping a variety of dishes under something akin to a “500 Calories or Less” heading).  While that provides quantitative nutritional information, it is but one tiny piece in that large jigsaw puzzle known as health.

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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

    Chili’s:

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

    Denny’s:

    • 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

    Quizno’s:

    • 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.

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    Sharing? Don’t Stop Caring!

    1208967775-33929_fullChili’s Grill & Bar is currently offering a “3 courses for $20” special that allows patrons to “split a starter, choose [their own] entree, and share a dessert.”

    Sounds like the key to a low-cal lunch, right?  Not when you consider the calorie, saturated fat, and sodium bombs on the menu.

    Below are three possible combinations from the available appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

    Remember, these calculations are per person for a shared appetizer, a non-shared entree, and a shared dessert.

    Option #1: Splitting a Half Order of Texas Cheese Fries, Eating a Mesquite Chicken Salad, and Sharing a Slice of Cheesecake

    • 2,010 calories
    • 55 grams saturated fat (almost three days’ worth)
    • 4,160 milligrams of sodium (one and a half days’ worth)

    Option #2: Splitting Bottomless Chips With Salsa, Eating A Quesadilla Explosion Salad, and Sharing a Slice of Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

    (Note: I was benevolent and assumed only one basket of bottomless chips was consumed)

    • 2,070 calories
    • 41.5 grams saturated fat (slightly more than two days’ worth)
    • 4,305 milligrams of sodium (almost two days’ worth)

    Option #3: Splitting a Skillet Queso Appetizer, Eating A Bacon Burger (Without Sides), and Sharing a Slice of Molten Chocolate Cake

    • 2,065 calories
    • 50.5 grams saturated fat (two and a half days’ worth)
    • 4,115 milligrams of sodium (one and a half days’ worth)

    Let’s put this into context:

    • Each of these ‘combo meals’ provides the amount of calories a 38-year-old, 5’8″, 140 pound, moderately active female needs in an entire day
    • On average, each of these meals contains as much saturated fat as an entire pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream
    • On average, each of these meals packs in only 100 fewer calories than FOUR Big Macs
    • You would need to eat ELEVEN slices of a Domino’s 12″ cheese pizza to match the average amount of sodium in each of these meals

    The floor is now open for comments.

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    An Appetizer A Day Can Bring Problems Your Way

    Don’t let the term “starters” or “appetizers” lure you into a false sense of security.

    Sometimes, these items are just as caloric — if not higher — than entrees.

    Consider some of the following examples from Chili’s restaurant.

    The buffalo wings appetizer (containing 9 pieces) adds up to 1,170 calories, 15 grams (75% of a day’s worth) of saturated fat, and 4,130 milligrams (two days’ worth) of sodium.

    In the mood for classic nachos? Then I hope you are okay with ordering 1,450 calories, 57 grams (almost three days’ worth!) of saturated fat, and 2,730 milligrams (over a day’s worth) of sodium.

    Oh, you want those with beef? That will be 1,740 calories, 65 grams of saturated fat, and 3,700 milligrams of sodium.

    The Texas cheese fries appetizer, meanwhile, clocks in at 2,070 calories, 73 grams of saturated fat (almost FOUR days’ worth) and 3,730 milligrams of sodium.

    Even if shared, these are nutritional bombs.

    Let’s say the Texas cheese fries are split by a table of three.

    Assuming each person gets an equal share of food, that’s 720 calories, 25 grams of saturated fat (more than a day’s worth) and half a day’s worth of sodium a piece!

    Combine that with a sandwich or a ribs-centered entree (averaging 1,000 calories without the side of fries) and you have a day’s worth of calories.

    Your best bet at this chain? First, swap an appetizer for a soup.

    A cup of Southwestern vegetable soup contains 110 calories, the broccoli cheese variety clocks in at 160 calories, and a cup of baked potato soup adds up to 220 calories.

    While not low in sodium, none offer more than 650 milligrams of sodium (that’s almost 85% less sodium than some of the monstruosities I previously pointed out.)

    And stay away from any menu item labeled as bottomless. Eating 800 calories of corn chips before your meal comes out isn’t as impossible as you may think!

    When it comes to your entree, stick to grilled fish dishes, pita sandwiches (no more than 500 calories) or grilled chicken sandwiches.

    If you’re in the mood for anything else (burgers, ribs, fried chicken platters), satisfy your craving by splitting your meal with a friend. You’ll save some money — and anywhere from 600 to 950 calories!

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