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    Archive for the ‘restaurants’ Category

    Numbers Game: Answer

    chinese takeoutThe standard takeout container for a side of rice from a Chinese restaurant contains 2 cup(s) of rice, equivalent to 415 calories.

    (Note: One-half cup of cooked rice constitutes “one Pyramid serving” of grains)

    For many people, this side dish of rice covers more than half of their recommended grain servings for the day.

    Unfortunately, most people often perceive “a side of rice” as just one grain serving, regardless of the amount they eat!

    This also demonstrates how quickly the calories in a standard Chinese lunch special add up.

    Let’s crunch some numbers:

    • Average lunch special entree: 350 – 500 calories
    • Average side of rice: 415 calories (remember, all that rice is tightly packed!)
    • Average egg roll (comes with lunch special): 150 – 200 calories
    • Average packet of egg roll sauce: 25 – 30 calories
    • Can of soda (again, comes with lunch special): 143 calories
    • Average order of hot & sour soup (also comes with lunch special): 100 calories

    On average, you are looking at a lunch that provides anywhere from 1,183 to 1,388 calories.  This is roughly 70 percent of a 45-year-old man’s recommended daily calorie intake.

    Certainly explains why you tend to crave an early afternoon nap whenever the office orders Chinese!

    Next time a co-worker brings a Chinese restaurant menu to your office for “fried pork Friday”, be prepared.  Donate your egg roll, split your side of rice with someone else, and opt for a calorie-free beverage.  Those three minor changes save you a grand total of 475 calories!


    Numbers Game: Takeout for… One?

    chinese_take_out_cartonThe standard takeout container for a side of rice from a Chinese restaurant contains ____ cup(s) of rice, equivalent to _____ calories.

    (Note: One-half cup of cooked rice constitutes “one Pyramid serving” of grains)

    a) 1/195
    b) 1.5/275
    c) 2/415
    d) 2.5/550

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Tuesday for the answer.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    chinese-takeoutYour standard eggplant-in-garlic-sauce- entree at a Chinese restaurant contains 900 calories and 1,750  milligrams of sodium.

    (NOTE: Daily sodium intake should not surpass 2,400 milligrams)

    Calorically, that’s equal to four and a half Taco Bell soft beef tacos!

    And, mind you, this is without taking the 250-calorie side of rice into account.  Or the 200 calorie soda.

    Chinese food restaurants (or at least Chinese food as imagined by Americans) are infamous health traps, largely due to the excessive amounts of oil and sauces used in food preparation.

    It also doesn’t help that many of these restaurants also dole out gigantic portions.

    Here are some other Chinese food calorie shockers:

    • The average 6-piece order of steamed vegetable dumplings packs in anywhere from 400 – 500 calories and 1,000 – 1,200 milligrams of sodium (dipping sauce included)
    • The average order of fried rice clocks in at 1,400 calories and a day and a half’s worth of sodium
    • The average order of Peking Duck contains 1,200 calories and a day’s worth of sodium
    • Veggie lo-mein usually adds up to anywhere between 900 and 1200 calories

    Your best strategies when ordering Chinese:

    • Opt for Summer rolls instead of Spring rolls
    • Ask for sauces on the side (use the “dip the fork/chopstick in sauce first and then pick up food” method)
    • Stay away from dishes described as “crispy” or “crunchy”
    • When it comes to rice, have it steamed — and brown!
    • Be careful with thick, gooey sauces like hoisin and sweet and sour, as they are a source of concentrated calories
    • Shrimp is always a good low-calorie protein choice

    You Ask, I Answer: Tortilla Chips & Salsa

    I had lunch at a Mexican restaurant this weekend that labeled some [menu items] as low-fat and low-carb.

    I was surprised that the chips and salsa appetizer wasn’t [labeled] low-fat.

    I know salsa is fat-free, so wouldn’t [chips and salsa] be lower in calories than [an order of] chips and guacamole?

    — David (last name withheld)
    Orlando, FL

    Although a standard restaurant order of chips and salsa (approximately two ounces of tortilla chips and one cup of salsa) offers 330 fewer calories than that same amount of chips and guacamole, it is not a low-fat appetizer.

    Sure, one serving (two tablespoons) of salsa contains a negligilble 0.1 grams of fat, but don’t forget about the chips!

    One serving of tortilla chips (one ounce in weight, or approximately 12 individual chips) contributes 140 calories and seven grams of fat. This is identical to the calorie and fat values of potato chips, by the way.

    Assuming the restaurant is following FDA standards for low-fat labeling, they can only “award” that moniker to items contributing less than three grams of fat per serving.

    Since one serving of tortilla chips alone offers more than twice that amount, you can understand why this particular appetizer didn’t make the cut.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    The average taco salad shell contains approximately 300 – 450 calories.

    Yet another example of how salads can sometimes pack a caloric wallop.

    Eating the shell on a taco salad can make the difference between a 600 calorie lunch and 1,050 calorie meal!

    You’re better off resisting temptation by asking for your taco salad to be served in a bowl.

    If you are in need of some crunch, ask the server to top off your salad with a few tortilla chips (think a half dozen, thereby adding no more than 100 calories.)


    Numbers Game: Shell Shock

    The average taco salad shell contains approximately ______ – _______ calories.

    a) 200-305
    b) 240-330
    c) 300-450

    d) 480-605

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A 24-ounce limited edition Jack in the Box eggnog shake contains 1,450 calories, 225 percent of the daily saturated fat recommended limit, and 3 grams of trans fat.

    (NOTE: Trans fat recommendations are set at 0 grams per day.)

    If this “special edition” shake is available after December 31, they should change its name to “The Resolution Breaker.”

    To put it in perspective, this beverage has more calories than an entire 12-inch Domino’s cheese pizza (with regular — not thin — crust)!

    And if you thought the 3 grams of trans fat were bad, check out some of the other options on Jack in the Box’s menu.

    A 10-piece order of mini churros delivers a jaw-dropping (and heart-stopping?) SEVEN grams of trans fat!

    An order of French Fries from the children’s menu may seem innocent with its 220 calories, but it also delivers 3.5 grams of trans fat.

    So, dear president-elect Obama, how about igniting heart-healthy change with a national trans fat ban?


    Numbers Game: Rice ‘n Roll

    An average 6-piece inside-out sushi roll (rice on the outside, nori on the inside, as pictured at left) at a Japanese restaurant in the United States contains _________ of rice.

    (Note: 1 serving of rice = 1/2 cup)

    a) 1/3 cup
    b) 1/2 cup
    c) 1 cup
    d) 1.5 cups

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Wednesday for the answer.


    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!


    In The News: October Surprise

    Some very surprising — and encouraging — news to share today.

    “Yum Brands, parent company to Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, [A&W, and Long John Silver’s, has] announced plans to begin posting product calorie information on the indoor menu boards nationwide at company-owned restaurants.”


    You read correctly — these chains are doing so completely unprompted. This is not the fast-food industry sighing, rolling its eyes, and begrudgingly “doing what it’s told”.

    The end result of this ground-breaking announcement is that 20,000 of these chain restaurants throughout the United States will post calorie information on their menus by January of 2011.

    Meanwhile, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King have announced they have no intention of posting calorie information where they are not legally required to do so.


    In The News: California Counts Calories

    Congratulations to California on being the first state to pass a calorie labeling law.

    Unlike other cities and counties that have passed a similar bill, California is taking a two-step approach.

    First, “beginning July 1, 2009, [restaurants] will be required to provide brochures containing nutritional information including number of calories and grams of saturated fat.”

    Calorie information on menu boards, meanwhile, must be implemented by January 1, 2011.

    “The new law applies to restaurants with 20 or more locations in California, which includes more than 17,000 eateries.”


    Numbers Game: Answer

    Next time you’re at Chipotle, keep in mind that you can save 230 calories and 65 percent of a day’s worth of saturated fat by passing on the cheese and sour cream.

    The main factor behind these high numbers is that what should really be a “dollop” of sour cream turns out being about 6 to 8 tablespoons’ worth, depending on how scoop-happy your particular server is feeling that day.

    Although Chipotle’s mix and match system makes it quite easy to end up with calorie and sodium-laden meals (a burrito with chicken, rice, beans, sour cream, cheese, corn salsa, and tomato salsa adds up to 1,130 calories and 125% of the daily recommended sodium limit,) it is also possible to enjoy a nutritious meal that doesn’t go quite as overboard.

    For instance: substitute the above for three crispy tacos with black beans, onions and peppers, tomato salsa, cheese, and guacamole and you end up with 680 calories and 80% of a day’s worth of sodium.

    Alhough quite high on the sodium scale, it is 40% lower than the first option!

    The best news? That meal alone delivers a whooping 25 grams of fiber — 50% more than the first burrito option I presented.

    That high fiber content, along with 24 grams of protein, and plentiful fats in the guacamole make for a satisfying and filling meal (I particularly point that out because I occassionally come across some people who equate meatless meals with birdfood that leaves you feeling hungry half an hour after finishing them.)

    And whereas the chicken burrito adds up to 83 percent of the saturated fat limit, the crispy vegetarian taco shells lower that figure to 50 percent.

    Surprisingly, three crispy taco shells offer 110 less calories and SIX HUNDRED less milligrams of sodium than the soft tortilla used to construct a burrito.

    Easiest way to cut back on sodium? Stick to just one salsa.

    The mild tomato and corn salsas each offer 500 – 600 milligrams (a quarter of a day’s worth) of sodium per scoopful.

    Another easy way to cut back on calories is by getting all ingredients in a bowl, rather than a taco or tortilla. At the very least, you’ll save an additional 180 calories.


    Numbers Game: Skip and Save

    Next time you’re at Chipotle, keep in mind that you can save ______ calories and ______________ of a day’s worth of saturated fat by passing on the cheese and sour cream.

    a) 92/19 percent
    b) 137/34 percent
    c) 194/51 percent
    d) 230/65 percent

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Wednesday for the answer.


    Numbers Game: Belly Busting Bistro

    Over at PF Chang’s China Bistro, an appetizer portion of spare ribs contains _____ calories, while the Great Wall of Chocolate dessert (“six layers of rich chocolate cake frosted with semi-sweet chocolate chips and raspberry sauce,” pictured at right) adds up to _______ calories.

    a) 972/1,760
    b) 1,251/1,854
    c) 1,762/1,603

    d) 1,386/2,237

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Wednesday for the answer.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    Recent studies by Brian Wansink of Cornell University’s Applied Economics and Management Department and Pierre Chandon of the European Institute for Business Administration found that, on average, people underestimate the caloric content of “healthy sounding” dishes (like a grilled chicken salad, pictured right) at chain restaurants (and most dishes at “healthy sounding” restaurants) by 20 percent.

    This false sense of security is quite deceptive.

    It’s one thing to eat a grilled chicken breast on a bed of vegetables with a tablespoon of dressing or olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but quite another to accompany it with a ladle of dressing that can contribute up to 500 extra calories.

    And it’s not just calories that can be underestimated with healthy sounding choices.

    Here’s a shocker:

    An order of medium fries at McDonald’s contributes 221 milligrams of sodium to your day.

    An Asian chicken salad from that same chain? 1,030 milligrams — and that’s before you add a single drop of dressing!

    Once you pour that packet of dressing on, the total sodium content shoots up to 1,790 milligrams.

    The best tactic is to always be aware of what you are eating.

    For instance, does your grilled chicken sandwich come slathered with a thick layer of mayonnaise? Is your whole wheat wrap a foot long? Is your brown rice and vegetable stir fry drowning in sauce?

    Don’t be afraid to take charge, either. Ask for the dressing on the side, substitute mustard for mayo on your sandwich, and request that your stir fry be “light on the sauce.”

    Just remember to tip well!

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