As some of you may know, I am a grizzled and hardened veteran of the weight loss industry. I’ve tried just about every plan under the sun and have fallen for just about every phony “health” claim since the Carter administration. Even in these enlightened times, there are still nutritional wolves in disguise that are lying in wait to sabotage your health goals! I know we’ve all been trained to scan menus for certain keywords that signal to us that a food is “healthy,” but some of these keywords can lead to shock and awe at the scale. I’ve compiled a shortlist of the biggest culprits to help you make the best choice the next time the waitress asks for your order.
I’ll have the salad.
For so many of us (especially those of us who can recall the dawn of the salad bar in the 1970s) salad equals healthy, right? Not so fast! Sometimes a salad can be one of the most diabolical items on the menu, so make sure to check your nutritional facts beforehand. I’ve even been known to consult my smartphone at the table. Look, I don’t know anyone who goes to the Cheesecake Factory because they are watching their figure. Their Luau Salad has 800 calories and 32 grams of fat! That’s more than twice the fat and calories of a slice of their cheesecake (and those slices are HUGE). That salad has 250 more calories and 13 more grams of fat than a Big Mac. Another example: I used to order the Tostada Salad at Baja Fresh thinking it was a super choice. I knew the crispy shell had some extra fat, but I skipped the meat so it would all balance out. Turns out the meatless version of that salad still has 1,010 calories and 53 grams of fat. FIFTY-THREE GRAMS OF FAT! That’s almost an entire day’s calories; the equivalent to a large Big Mac Combo Meal.
Just a diet soda and popcorn for me, thanks!
Now, I don’t want to offend any of you ladies, but this is a mistake I see women make all the time at the movie theater. Not wanting to look like she has the appetite of a linebacker in front of her date, a woman opts not to indulge in candy, nachos or hot dogs, instead deciding to make the “healthy” choice of popcorn and a diet soda. Then the kid behind the counter explains to her date what an awesome deal the large combo is and the poor woman walks away with a large tub of popcorn that not only holds up to 20 cups of popcorn, but contains up to 1,200 calories and SIXTY grams of fat! According to WebMD, that’s the equivalent of “two Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizzas, plus an extra two days’ worth of saturated fat.” Not so dainty and ladylike now, are we?
A muffin is a great quick, healthy breakfast…right?
Anybody here but me ever order choose a muffin for a quick, “light” breakfast on the go? I thought so. Some of us are savvy enough to know that muffins can sometimes have hidden calories, so we’ll order “healthier” versions like, say, a zucchini muffin instead of a blueberry muffin. At the risk of being a major bummer, it is my sad duty to inform you that a Zucchini Walnut Muffin from Starbucks has 490 calories and 28 grams of fat. That’s not only more calories and fat than their Blueberry Muffin (and not even the low fat one), that’s more calories and fat than a Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit from McDonald’s.
But it’s not food, it’s fuel!
This one makes the list on a technicality. And yes, this time it’s personal. When I was in college, falling prey to the freshman fifteen (okay, thirty) I tried like hell to lose weight. I snacked night and day on trail mix. Now, in their defense, most trail mixes do in fact contain healthy, whole foods like nuts, dried fruits, and berries. But believe me when I tell you that your waistline will start to go off the rails when: 1.) Your trail mix also contains candy-coated chocolate, fried banana chips, and shaved coconut. 2.) You naively believe that one bag of trail mix contains one serving instead of what it actually contains, which is thirty servings. While one serving of Bear Naked Trail Mix only has 140 calories and 8 grams of fat, please make sure you read the fine print that says a serving is ¼ cup. Learn from my mistakes, people!
How did I gain 7 lbs? Wait, maybe it’s that yogurt!
Remember that episode of Seinfeld where they all gorge themselves on frozen yogurt and can’t figure out why they’re getting fat? Yep, this one has happened to me. It must be because I live in Southern California, where frozen yogurt dealers are open all year long. I’ll fall in love with some new yogurt joint and then pretend to be shocked when the scale creeps up. “But it’s LOW FAT! How can this BE?” It can be! And it’s usually because I’m either eating humongous and numerous portions or I’m conveniently forgetting to account for those crumbled peanut butter cups I asked for. Nowadays most places display the nutritional facts (per ounce) for their yogurt and even their toppings That means it’s up to you to find out whether you are serving yourself four ounces or fourteen. If you don’t tell yourself the truth, your scale will.
I hope this list has inspired you to take a moment to do a little research the next time you find yourself eating out. I have several go-to sites like Dotti’s Weight Loss Zone and Calorie Count that have extensive databases of menu items from popular restaurants,. Just a few clicks can make a huge difference in your dress size and your health, so take those few seconds for YOU.