We were lucky enough to go away this weekend to see some friends. The drive was going to take anywhere between 4-6 hours depending on traffic so we knew at some point we’d have to stop to attend to the baby and have something to eat.

On the way to our destination it’s a little bit easier because you can pack up food for the ride. We packed water in reusable bottles and sandwiches on flat bread.

I wanted vegetarian options so I put some hummus, fresh baby spinach, and sun dried tomatoes on a flat bread with a spray of extra Virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. It was creamy and tangy. So delicious and you don’t even miss the meat. You can beef (Hah) it up by adding a slice of cheese if you want.  Without the cheese, this would be a vegan sandwich.

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My sandwich du jour.

We did make a stop at a rest area for bathroom breaks but not for food! And that was a good thing because rest areas are very tricky to navigate if you’re hungry and cranky from being stuck in traffic.

On the way home, we weren’t able to pack up food so we only had water on hand. When we stopped at the rest area the choices were Starbucks, Nathan’s and Burger King. Yikes.

Usually the only vegetarian options are salads that are loaded with unhealthy toppings like cheese and creamy dressing.  Or you can have a serving of fries (not my recommendation) because those are vegetarian though not very healthy.  Fortunately for me, I don’t really like french fries.  Plus, every time I visit a fast food restaurant I am reminded of the dreaded pink slime. Though McDonald’s has stopped using pink slime as of 2012, I still can’t get the idea out of my head of “boneless lean beef trimmings” out of my head.  I am also reminded of my old Weight Watchers leader who told me that pink slime is treated with ammonia to kill E Coli bacteria.  Yuck-y.  I stopped eating beef at fast food restaurants then and there.  So I’m usually ordering up some kind of chicken sandwich if I’m eating there at all.  Until today.

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Burger King’s New Turkey Burger

Hey, look at this!  There’s a new turkey burger on the menu.  I asked the woman who took our order if she liked it and she told me she’s never tried it.  (Missed opportunity to give the employees a free taste to help them sell the new item, Burger King)  I decided to give it a whirl because it might be a good option for those who don’t want beef and want something a little healthier.  It turns out the turkey burger is coming in at 530 calories, which is not what I would consider a “healthy” option, but, it is less than the Whopper which is 670 calories.  I imagine if I’d thought to ask for the turkey burger without mayonnaise I could have saved about 150 calories.  Unfortunately, I forgot to ask, but that’s a trick I learned long ago in order to bring down the calories at a fast food restaurant.  My other tip is to skip the cheese on the sandwich.  The turkey burger is served without cheese as a standard, so if you did add cheese it would probably be much more equal to the Whopper in calories than anyone would think.

I guess in the end, I was probably about even on the calories but I enjoyed the turkey burger taste-wise and I was happy to not be eating beef.  I also had water with it (no soda or diet soda) and didn’t have french fries.  If we start looking at the calories for a “meal” with soda and fries we might all faint!

As a side note, I was pleased to see Burger King had some better choices for the traditional kids meal.  You get a choice of either fries or apple slices, and your choice of drink is expanded beyond soda to include juice or low fat chocolate milk.  Again, not the ideal lunch I want to be serving Dylan on a weekly basis, but for the case of the occasional road trip, it was good to know there were healthier options.

The main thing here is the we all have to stop being so hard on ourselves when we fall victim to the rest area food, or the mall food court, or the bible sized menu at Cheesecake Factory.  The world is engineered in such a way to make us eat this crap.  It’s not really our fault.  The best we can do (if you still plan to live in society and not move off to a farm in Wyoming) is to make the best choices possible.  That’s a good way to live life everyday too.  Just make the best choices you can and feel good about that.  For every vegetarian meal we eat and every organic bunch of bananas we buy we are making a difference with our dollars.  The big companies pay attention to every dollar we spend, so make the best choices you can with that dollar so they get our message loud and clear.  Your dollar is your vote.  So, choose wisely.

 

 

 

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I love this!  Real food is not what’s filling our supermarket shelves anymore.  That’s why Michael Pollan recommends shopping the perimeter of the store.  That’s where the produce, meat, dairy and “real food” is.  All the packaged stuff is in the center.

Last weekend I got to go back in time while visiting the North Fork of Long Island to see some family. My hostess, Helen, told me “everything out here is organic” because there are so many farms.  She offered to take me to visit some while we were there.

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We went to Garden of Eve organic market which had fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers, everything!  I wondered if you could actually do all your grocery shopping here?  I think for many of us it would be a challenge without the packaged goods, but its possible.

We bought items to make a salad: red onion, butter leaf lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.  The butter leaf lettuce was actually buttery tasting which made me realize “Oh THAT’S why they call it BUTTER LEAF!”  Duh!! It was the kind of salad that makes you realize salad is really tasty and worth eating.

It just goes to show that the organic really tastes better and basically more like the “real thing”.  I remember the first time I had an organic banana.  It was the best tasting banana I ever had, and I had bought organic by accident I think so I was really surprised!  It just tasted more like a banana than any other banana I’d ever had.

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We hit up a few different organic markets including Sang Lee which I’m told is very famous.  Each was a delight for the senses.  I mean, what they heck are those purple beans anyway? How do you cook those?

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Marie in an ear of corn

There’s even fun stuff for kids (and me as you can see above) to give it a whimsical touch.

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Some markets have animals too!

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They also have a really good selection of whole grains.  David Wolfe recommends eating these raw, but I didn’t go that far just yet!

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This is what supermarkets should look like!

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Don’t you agree?

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And then, there was this “Make Your Own Cheese Kit”.  I didn’t buy it, but yeah, let’s make our own cheese.  It reminds me of another thing I’ve heard Michael Pollan say, “Eat as many french fries as you want as long as you make them from scratch (I’m paraphrasing)”.  And it goes back to eat what you can make.  Making french fries is such a hassle that if you only ate them when you made them, you wouldn’t be eating them that often!  That’s how I’m feeling these days. Just make your own food as much as you can.  Then you know what’s in it and how it was prepared.

If you can’t make it to the organic market every week (I wish I could, but I can’t!) buy organic at the supermarket and be assured in knowing every dollar you spend on organic food is a vote for a different food system in this country. For more information on eating organic and finding ways to fit it into your lifestyle check out this blog from last month.

I can’t wait to get back to the North Fork for more shopping and salads!

I am the 70%

October 9, 2012

According to the Mallomars box (don’t ask), 70% of all the Mallomars sold are “sold in the shadow of the Big Apple.”  I must be genetically pre-disposed to love Mallomars as I was born and bred in the shadow of the Big Apple.  Not like I have an accent or anything to prove it. (Cawfee, Chawklate)

Honestly, I don’t think I ever tasted a Mallomar until my old WW leader Ellen talked about them one day in a meeting.  She mentioned they are “seasonal” because the chocolate is so delicate it would melt in warmer months.  I am such a sucker for anything “seasonal” or “limited edition” that I had to try it. (I just bought “limited edition” Dove soap that was formulated for summer time, even though it’s October, I bought it…sucka) Mallomars are a graham cracker cookie topped with a marshmallow and coated with chocolate.  It’s kind of like a ‘smore (another weakness of mine).

I went to Pathmark yesterday to do a big grocery shopping to really start the week off right.  I drove over there, put my baby in the stroller and walked into the store.  I decided I’d pop in to the built-in Dunkin Donuts for a tea (what a treat!).  With tea in cup holder and baby in Bugaboo I entered the Pathmark.  The first thing I saw was an entire display of Mallomars and Entenmann’s (which was on sale for super cheap).  Why must they put the sugary crap in the front? So I grabbed a box of Mallomars for my first Fall box of marshmallow-y goodness and realized, I don’t have a cart to put it in.  I just have my stroller, and my baby and my tea.  Damn.  I can’t shop without a cart.  So, back the Mallomars went as I headed out to the car.  Baby moved from Bugaboo to cart, tea no longer in holder and me a little annoyed at just how stupid I could be.  I was so busy contemplating tea and Mallomars that I didn’t even realize I was totally ill-equipped to actually shop.  Oy vei.  I’m too used to just popping into the grocery store after work to grab a few items that will fit in the bottom basket of my stroller.  This is a not a successful recipe for me – hence, the trip to Pathmark!

After I got a cart and went back in, I think I did a very good shopping.  Grabbed a lot of veggies by Green Giant that tell you the amount of WW points+, got some other staples for the freezer and pretty much stuck to my list with the exception of the Mallomars.

Now, don’t even get me started on how hard it was to get the baby and the groceries up the flight of stairs to my apartment!  Activity points, anyone?

Calorie Postings

October 27, 2009

I personally LOVE the calorie postings in chain restaurants here in New York City.  Finally, we can make a somewhat informed decision about what we are ordering and eating.  I think back to a time when I was still learing the ropes of Weight Watchers and ordered a “rainbow cookie” at Starbucks to go with my non-fat Chai Latte (3 points).  It’s basically a chocolate chip cookie that uses M&Ms instead of chocolate chips, thus giving it a colorful “rainbow” appearance.  It was rather large, but I had plenty of my weekly points (or pleasure) allowance left, so I went for it.  How many points could it be, six?  I could handle that.  I had my latte and my cookie and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Then, I got home and went on the Starbucks website…drum roll please…10 points!  10 points for a stupid cookie!  For 13 points I could’ve had a Big Mac and considering I had the latte with it (for 3 points) I basically DID have the equivalent of a Big Mac.  Ridonculous.  Shame on them.

I don’t order that cookie anymore, or really ANYTHING at Fatbucks.  Capitalist pigs!  Oink, oink.

Anyway, here’s some supposed “findings” on how the calorie posting are working out in low-income areas.  We really need to find a way to deliver good food to the lower class that is affordable.  One guy says he’s just looking for the cheapest meal possible.  Sad.  Especially when that’s 2 cheeseburgers at McDonald’s for $2.

October 6, 2009

Calorie Postings Don’t Change Habits, Study Finds

By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS excerpted from The New York Times

 

A study of New York City’s pioneering law on posting calories in restaurant chains suggests that when it comes to deciding what to order, people’s stomachs are more powerful than their brains.  The study, by several professors at New York University and Yale, tracked customers at four fast-food chains — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken — in poor neighborhoods of New York City where there are high rates of obesity.

It found that about half the customers noticed the calorie counts, which were prominently posted on menu boards. About 28% of those who noticed them said the information had influenced their ordering, and 9 out of 10 of those said they had made healthier choices as a result.  But when the researchers checked receipts afterward, they found that people had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect, in July 2008.

The findings, to be published Tuesday in the online version of the journal Health Affairs come amid the spreading popularity of calorie-counting proposals as a way to improve public health across the country.

“I think it does show us that labels are not enough,” Brian Elbel, an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study, said in an interview.

New York City was the first place in the country to require calorie posting, making it a test case for other jurisdictions. Since then, California, Seattle and other places have instituted similar rules.

Calorie posting has even entered the national health care reform debate, with a proposal in the Senate to require calorie counts on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants. This study focused primarily on poor black and Hispanic fast-food customers in the South Bronx, central Brooklyn, Harlem, Washington Heights and the Rockaways in Queens, and used a similar population in Newark, which does not have a calorie posting law, as a control group. The locations were chosen because of a high proportion of obesity and diabetes among poor minority populations.

The researchers collected about 1,100 receipts, two weeks before the calorie posting law took effect and four weeks after. Customers were paid $2 each to hand over their receipts.

For customers in New York City, orders had a mean of 846 calories after the labeling law took effect. Before the law took effect, it was 825 calories. In Newark, customers ordered about 825 calories before and after.

On Monday, customers at the McDonald’s on 125th Street near St. Nicholas Avenue provided anecdotal support for the findings.  William Mitchell, from Rosedale, Queens, who was in Harlem for a job interview, ordered two cheeseburgers, about 600 calories total, for $2.

When asked if he had checked the calories, he said: “It’s just cheap, so I buy it. I’m looking for the cheapest meal I can.” Tameika Coates, 28, who works in the gift shop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, ordered a Big Mac, 540 calories, with a large fries, 500 calories, and a large Sprite, 310 calories. “I don’t really care too much,” Ms. Coates said. “I know I shouldn’t, ’cause I’m too big already,” she added with a laugh.

April Matos, a 24-year-old family specialist, bought her 3-year-old son, Amari, a Happy Meal with chicken McNuggets, along with a Snack Wrap for herself. She said with a shrug that she had no interest in counting calories. “Life is short,” she said, adding that she used to be a light eater. “I started eating everything now I’m pregnant.”

Nutrition and public health experts said the findings showed how hard it was to change behavior, but they said it was not a reason to abandon calorie posting.  One advocate of calorie posting suggested that low-income people were more interested in price than calories.

“Nutrition is not the top concern of low-income people, who are probably the least amenable to calorie labeling,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group in Washington.

New York City health officials said that because the study was conducted immediately after the law took effect, it might not have captured changes in people’s behavior that have taken hold more gradually.

A year ago, officials pointed out, the city began an advertising campaign telling subway riders that most adults should eat about 2,000 calories a day, which might put the calorie counts in context.

While the N.Y.U. study examined 1,100 restaurant receipts, the city is doing its own analysis of 12,000 restaurant receipts, which it plans to release in a few months, said Cathy Nonas, director of nutrition programs for the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

People sometimes confuse intentions with actions, said Marie Roth, a registered dietitian with Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y.  “Just by contemplating healthier choices, they feel like they could have done it and maybe they will the next time,” Ms. Roth said.

 

Just because it SOUNDS healthy, doesn’t mean it is…

Beware!

Better yet, make your own sandwich and brown bag it once and a while.

I had a similar incident at Panera.  I got a healthy sounding grilled chicken sandwich without knowing the nutritional information.  I enjoyed it and then went home and got on the Panera site to figure out the points.  Oy vei!  It was a 13 pointer!  I couldv’e had a Big Mac for the same 13 points and probably enjoyed it more!

This is why I love that chain restaurants have to post calories for all their items in NYC.

The 5 Worst Sandwiches in America

The sandwich is the on-the-go meal of choice. When you don’t have time for utensils and dishes, the sandwich is a natural go-to.

Unfortunately, these once-simple meals are getting more complicated: From wraps to paninis, and ciabatta, semolina and sourdough, there’s an entire armada of doughy choices and sandwich varieties. But which are good for you? Which will deliver protein and other nutrients and help you stay in fighting trim?

Here’s a hint: Some of the worst offenders carry innocent-sounding words like “chicken” or “salad” or even “vegetarian” in their names. Before you pick up a sandwich, make sure you know just what’s lurking below those innocent-looking loaves. The new book “Eat This, Not That! The Best (& Worst!) Foods in America” catalogs the best and worst sandwiches in America. Making simple swaps like these every day will help you eat what you want and still lose 10, 20, or even 30 pounds in the course of a year!

Worst “healthy” sandwich
Romano’s Macaroni Grill Grilled Chicken and Artichoke

  • 980 calories
  • 55 g fat (13 g saturated)
  • 2,240 mg sodium
  • 76 g carbohydrates

Equivalent: As many calories as 16 Fudgecicles

Nothing sounds healthier than some nice grilled chicken and artichokes, right? Well, chances are, you’ll seriously regret choking down this calorie-fest. It’s one thing to have a fatty, highly caloric burger, but when a sandwich sounds this diet-friendly, it’s particularly egregious. You’re much better off sticking with a simple, lean entree like the chicken spiedini.

Eat this instead!
Grilled Chicken Spiedini

  • 360 calories
  • 10 g fat (2 g saturated)
  • 1150 mg sodium
  • 17 g carbohydrates

Worst vegetarian sandwich
Blimpie Special Vegetarian (12”)

  • 1,186 calories
  • 60 g fat (19 g saturated)
  • 3,532 mg sodium
  • 131 g carbohydrates

Equivalent: As much sodium as 86 saltine crackers

“Vegetarian” doesn’t automatically translate to “healthy.” Sure, this sandwich has vegetables, but it also has three different kinds of oil tucked into a hulking 12” roll. No wonder it contains more than half a day’s worth of calories and a cascade of carbs.

Eat this instead!
VeggieMax on Wheat (6”)

  • 499 calories
  • 21 g fat (6 g saturated)
  • 1,212 mg sodium
  • 50 g carbohydrates

Worst meaty sandwich
Subway Footlong Meatball with Cheese

  • 1,260 calories
  • 54 g fat (22 g saturated)
  • 3,570 mg sodium
  • 142 g carbohydrates

Equivalent: Same calories as 42 onion rings (from Burger King)

Jared may be able to hold up those huge pants next to his svelte frame thanks to Subway, but we guarantee his weight-loss diet did not include this belt breaker. But luckily, there are only two things that will get you into trouble at Subway: footlongs and hot sandwiches. The best bet is to stick to a 6” ham, turkey or roast beef — if you’re extra hungry, double the protein for only 50 to 80 more calories.

Eat this instead!
6” Double Roast Beef

  • 400 calories
  • 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
  • 1,410 mg sodium
  • 47 g carbohydrates

Worst fried chicken sandwich
Chili’s Buffalo Chicken Crisper Bites

  • 1,620 calories
  • 100 g fat (21 g saturated)
  • 5,380 mg sodium
  • 123 g carbohydrates

Equivalent: Same fat as 28 scoops of Edy’s Loaded Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

These sandwiches may look cute, but they’re far from harmless. At Chili’s, the words “bites” and “crisper” translate into calorie-packed sauces and a bucket of frying oil. You can taste the same bold flavors and save more than 1,000 calories by opting for the Fajita Pita instead.

Eat this instead!
Fajita Pita Chicken

  • 460 calories
  • 13 g fat (2 g saturated)
  • 1,400 mg sodium
  • 52 g carbohydrates

Worst sandwich in America
Quiznos Tuna Melt (Large)

  • 1,760 calories
  • 133 g fat (25 g saturated, 1.5 g trans)
  • 2,120 mg sodium

Equivalent: Same calories as 12 Budweisers (bottles)

The classic tuna melt is, in our eyes, a travesty of healthy eating. They’re taking one of the leanest, smartest foods out there — tuna — and bombarding it with an ocean of mayo and a flood of cheese. And Quiznos takes it to the next level with their outrageous serving sizes. You’re much better off with a flatbread sammie — heck, make it two! You’ll save at least 1,000 calories.

Eat this instead!
Sonoma Turkey Flatbread Sammie

  • 280 calories
  • 14 g fat (4 g saturated)
  • 740 mg sodium
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