Calorie Bomb

So I recently came across this article by the New York Times, have you seen it? It takes a look at what 2,000 calories looks like at different restaurant chains. Two of my favorite vendors have made the list: Starbucks and Shake Shack. Oh Shake Shack. How I love you. But anyway.

What 2,000 Calories Looks Like

As my dad always said growing up, restaurants “steal your health and steal your wealth.” I definitely agree. On top of expecting to pay at least $10/person, if you’re ordering in from a restaurant or going out to eat, you really can’t say you know exactly what’s going into your food. Even if you get a salad, oftentimes the dressings are full of wacky ingredients that were probably never meant for human consumption. Not only that, but many many restaurants pour oil and butter into their dishes and onto their griddles, making its way onto your plate, causing the calories to add up.  Scary!!

Shack burger and cheesefries. Sometimes you just gotta indulge. Sorry. But not.
My meal: Shack burger and cheese fries. Sometimes you just have to indulge. Sorry. But not.

It’s pretty interesting to see what you can get for 2,000 calories at each restaurant chain. For some places like Subway, you can get a whole day’s worth of food, while at others (so sad, Shake Shack), you can blow it all in one meal. Some you can even chomp it all in one dish!!! I don’t know about you, but as I progressed through the article, I could feel my blood pressure rising! And then it nicely came back down when it showcased what you can make at home for 2,000 calories. Ah, nothing beats cooking at home.

Original picture can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/12/22/upshot/what-2000-calories-looks-like.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=0
Original picture can be found here.

So when you do decide to go out to eat, what can you do to make sure you avoid consuming a whole day’s worth of calories in one meal? These are the tips I follow below:

  1. Research before. A lot of large chains like Chipotle, Starbucks, and salad places have nutrition calculators where you can build the meal you want and it will tell you all of the nutrition information. A lot of sit down restaurants also have their entire menus available online, and their nutrition information either on their website and/or on MyFitnessPal. Plan what you want to eat before you go so you know exactly how it will fit into your meal plan.
  2. Watch your drinks. It’s so easy to drink your calories. When you go out to eat, an alcoholic beverage, a regular soda, or a sweetened iced tea can add hundreds of calories to your meal. If you’re going to have a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail, stick with only one and avoid really sugary drinks. Even with non-alcoholic drinks, go with diet soda over regular, or just have plain water with lemon or lime. Oh, and those milkshakes they show for almost every restaurant in the New York Times article? Skip them!! They’re NEVER worth it. My gallbladder hurts just thinking about them.
  3. Know your vocabulary. Words on the menu like “crispy,” “battered,” “fried,” “smothered,” or “breaded,” likely indicate the dish has loads of oil and is likely super high in fat and calories. Instead, look for words like “grilled,” “fresh,” “roasted,” “poached,” or “broiled,” as these describe lower-calorie cooking methods. A more comprehensive list can be found here.
  4. Be conscious of portion sizes and extras. I know, I know. A lot of health professionals will tell you that when you order your food, ask for a to-go box and immediately put half of your meal inside of it and save it for later. If you’re anything like me, though, this trick NEVER works. I always end up eating the first half, and then digging into the portion that I intended to save for later! If this happens to you too, and you know you’re probably going to eat your entire dish, try to avoid snacking on chips and salsa, bread, or whatever pre-meal goodies they put on the table. Stick to one breadstick or a handful of chips so you don’t overdo it. During the main course, be mindful of what you’re eating, focus on the flavor, texture, and experience of every bite so you can be aware of how much you’re eating, and you can stop much more easily when you’re satisfied, which means more for later!
  5. Edit where you can. If you’re really looking into losing weight/watching your calories, you can edit your meal or swap for healthier options. Get the grilled vegetables instead of French fries on the side of your sandwich or steak. Get mustard instead of mayonnaise. Whole wheat instead of white (pasta, pizza, etc.). Scrambled egg whites instead of scrambled eggs. Trim off the visible fat. Take the top bun off of your hamburger or ask for a lettuce wrap. Ask for the dressing on the side, and dip your fork in it before scooping up your salad. If you eat out a lot, these tricks are probably more useful.

But seriously, if you’re going out to eat for a special occasion, or going to a special restaurant, don’t be afraid to indulge. If you do find yourself eating out multiple times/week, these tips may be more helpful to keep from weighing you down.

What do you think of the article? Did your favorite dish make the list? What are some other ways you navigate unhealthy restaurant calorie bombs?

The Best Diets in 2015

First and foremost, HAPPY NEW YEAR! New Years Day is one of my favorite days of the year because: 1) I feel like it’s one big culmination of all the joy, family, and friends of the holiday season; and 2) I love the idea of starting with a clean slate. The new year is an opportunity to reevaluate your life. It’s a time to look back on the past year and see how you’ve grown as a person, what changes you have made, and think about the direction you want to take yourself in the year to come.

I’m going to be cliche here and say it,  you have to admit that this is a good time to try out and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Be it new eating habits or new fitness routines, we have just come off of a holiday season full of celebrations, fancy dinners, sugary cocktails, and cookies galore. Why not take the month of January as an opportunity to start with a clean slate?

Which brings me to the point of this post. For the past 5 years, US News has been putting out rankings of the country’s most popular diets. And they have just published  The Best Diets of 2015. To quote US News, the diets are ranked as follows:

“A panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease reviewed our profiles, added their own fact-finding and rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. We also asked the panelists to let us know about aspects of each diet they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in with tidbits of advice that someone considering a particular diet should know.”

Here are just a few of my thoughts. This post may come off as biased, but these are my personal (and dare I say it, professional) opinions. You can find the full article here:

Best Diets 2015 – US News

The best diets overall, according to this article, are the DASH diet and TLC diets. As a registered dietitian working in a large city hospital, on two different cardiac units, I teach patients about both the DASH diet and TLC diet several times a day, every day. These diets discuss lowering sodium intake and trans fats and replacing them with more whole grains, healthy fats, and colorful fruits and vegetables. These diets really are amazing for everyone, not just people with heart issues, and can help you look better and feel better just by eliminating a lot of the processed foods that have infiltrated the typical American diet.

The best diets for weight loss are Weight Watchers and the Health Management Resources (HMR) diet. While I honestly have never even heard of the HMR diet, I must admit it does sound… interesting. I’m not the biggest fan of diets that include home food deliveries or shakes and meal replacement bars (like Jenny Craig or Medifest – both also made this list). I think a good weight loss diet shouldn’t have to incorporate a particular product made by a manufacturer to be successful. On the other hand, I think Weight Watchers is wonderful and I like that it incorporates real life techniques. I’ve done Weight Watchers myself in the past and found that it taught me how to prioritize healthier foods. It made me focus on eating foods like fruits and vegetables a habit that I still practice daily today.

I’m also really happy that the Volumetrics diet made this list again in 2015 (#6). Call me biased but I love this plan because it was created by Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutrition at Penn State, in a metabolic kitchen right next door to the research lab I worked in as an undergrad. BUT, Nittany pride aside, I do believe this diet has the research and the theory to back it up.

And finally, I have to say I’m kind of surprised that the Paleo diet came in last place for the second year in a row. Yes, I do think the Paleo diet is difficult to replicate in modern times, and I do love my legumes, whole grains, and cheese (which are alas, forbidden). But I think a lot of the key points behind it are pretty sound (focusing on lean meats and increasing fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds), and I definitely don’t think it’s worse than say, the Acid Alkaline diet and the Supercharged Hormone diet. I mean, really?

So, if you’re curious, take a moment to read this list and see if there’s anything out there you want to try in the new year. Some of these seem a little out there and whacky, which honestly makes me question the validity of this list, but there are a few good ones that may be worth your while.

Best of luck in achieving all your health and fitness goals that you have set for yourself this year, and Happy Eating!