Monday, February 23, 2009

Salad vs. Burger? I say nay to both!

This article from the Daytona Beach News Journal illustrates perfectly the myth that "salads" are the healthy choice at restaurants. Salads are always subject, in my opinion, unless you have made them yourself.

"It's happened to everyone at one time or another: You're at a casual dining restaurant, you open the menu and instantly the battle begins between your diet and your longing for big food. Sure, the salads sound tasty enough, but the pictures of the burgers make your mouth water and your stomach growl. So there's your dilemma. Do you virtuously order a salad and enjoy the feeling of having hewn to the straight and narrow, or do you go for the gusto and get the Monster Bacon Fatburger?"

Cheeseburgers get a bad rap, I think. Of course you will see that this particular burger is a very very bad burger. Of course, when I was in my peak dieting mode I would have sidestepped the bomb by only eating half of it. I used that trick everytime I ate at a restaurant, usually asking for a box as soon as the food was served. One of many ways I lost nearly 100 pounds from 2002-2004.

"So the battle lines are drawn. Today's kicked-up salads face off with today's overstuffed burgers, and you're in the middle.In this first showdown between the light and dark of your dietary wishes, we'll take a look at Chili's Grill and Bar, which could fairly be said to have invented the concept of casual dining in chain form.In the salad corner, we have the Mesquite Chicken Salad, which comes with the aforementioned applewood smoked bacon, as well as cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, corn relish, cilantro, crispy tortilla strips and a touch of barbecue sauce. The standard dressing with it is ranch.Nutrition facts: 1,010 calories, 63 grams fat, 2,830 mg sodium, 45 grams carbs. No cholesterol information given.In the burger corner is a burger whose very name strikes fear in the hearts of cardiologists everywhere: the Smokehouse Bacon Triple-The-Cheese Burger. According to the menu, this one comes with extra-thick applewood bacon, smoked cheddar, Swiss, provolone, sauteed onions, veggies and jalapeƱo ranch dressing. Nutrition facts: 1,720 calories, 122 grams fat, 3,810 mg sodium, 62 grams carbs."

Salad as diet food? I think not! The burger is no picnic, but I am always discouraged when no mention of protein count is included in such analyses. The secret to the plan I was on, The Abs Diet by Men's Health, was to make holistic food choices rather than purely "weight loss" choices. In the case of burger vs. salad, a burger (not this one LOL) can be a good choice. Served on a whole wheat bun with a patty less than 1/2 pound, a nice tomato slice, with some baby spinach leaves for the crunch, sprinkled with some ground flax, topped with some flax infused mayo or brown mustard is not only a tasty treat but nutrient rich. Even topped with a slice of low-fat american cheese, the nutritional benefits keep pace with the modest fat calories. This is a meal that has protein punch, vitamins galore, and enough fiber (thanks to the tomato, whole wheat bun, and spinach) to keep you feeling full. Avoid HFCS by skipping barbecue sauce or ketchup and you are helping yourself.

So, you are sitting at Chili's, debating your food order. This is what you SHOULD order. The Black Bean Burger with a house salad, fat free honey mustard dressing. Ask for a whole-wheat bun. Nutritional information (from my Abs Diet Field Guide): 520 calories, 57 grams protein, 38 grams carbs, 12 grams total fat, 24 grams fiber. That's a lot of fiber!!!