Friday, April 29, 2005

Friday Mythbustin': I'll Just Have The Salad

Myth: It's good to order "just" a salad if you're trying to eat healthy or lose weight.

Truth: Salads are sometimes the most fattening thing on the menu.

I had to throw this in here today after listening to an office full of people discussing lunches, and hearing how often the phrase "just a salad" or even the word "salad" came up.

The idea behind salads is a decent one. Since vegetables are high-fiber and low-calorie, a nice little mix of them adds fiber and some minerals without adding very many unwanted calories. Hence the "salad" portion of the meal. Some lettuce and tomatoes and things to balance the straight carbs and protein, like bread and steak.

But when you make the salad the center of attention, it seems kind of dull. It needs spruced up a little, badly, to become a complete meal. In fact, it needs carbs and protein--all the stuff you used to eat on the plate next to the salad plate.

So that's what restaurants did. They started adding bells and whistles to the salads to the point where all those fiber-filled vegetables have become a bed, a nest, a holding center for lots and lots of calorie filled stuff.

Think about the stuff people put on salads:

Dressing: By far, the worst offender. Two tablespoons of bleu cheese dressing contain 118 calories. That glob of dressing on top of that tomato slice has more calories than the whole tomato (which had about 22 calories whole).

Ah, but!, you say. Bleu cheese is 100% fat! I will go with the fat-free dressing! Well you're on the right track--you've probably gone from 118 calories per two tablespoons to around 50. Still more than twice the original tomato, and chances are the restaurant's globbed more than two tablespoons on your lettuce.

Your best bet is to go with as low-cal a dressing as you enjoy the taste of, and then try to spread it as thinly as you can throughout the salad. Some people say to get the dressing on the side, then dip your fork in the dressing, then take a forkfull of salad. If that works for you, great, but I've never really dug it.

Croutons, Chips-strips, Noodles, etc.: Would you eat straight white bread or chips if you were dieting? So then why is it suddenly a "diet" food when it's on a salad?

It's not, plain and simple. Lots of that stuff is fried, lots of that stuff is stuffed with calories, and lots of that stuff has zero nutritional value.

Unfortunately, it's also my favorite part of most salads.

(Okay, little confession. There was a time where I'd use Lucky Charms on my salads. Yes, the breakfast cereal. The crunchy part acted like croutons, and the marshmallows gave a nice sweet flavor, like raisins.)

It's probably the realization that I can't have croutons with it that turns me most off to salads now.

(To give you an idea of the difference the above two make--the Caesar side salad at Wendy's, without the dressing and croutons, is 90 calories. That's including the cheese and the "bacon pieces." With the dressing and croutons, it shoots up to 290 calories. Those two have twice the calories of the rest of the salad.)

Meats: "Ah, that's a fine cut of meat. Put it in the salad."

Not high up on the list of things you're going to hear at most of the restaurants you and I can afford. Chances are that's not the leanest stuff in the house.

Plus, lots of salads feature "hard" meats, full of saturated fats and other calorie-laden stuff that's really yummy but not all that healthy. Even if it's chicken, it's often the same fried "finger" chicken they serve in appetizers, with all the added calories of deep-frying.

Cheese: Cheese is another make-or-break. Piles of shredded cheese add on saturated fat calories. A a lot less of a flavorful hard cheese, like Parmesan, can do the same thing for fewer calories.

How big a difference in calories can we find in what constitutes a "salad?"

Well, at Jack In The Box, if you get a Chicken Caesar Salad, you're looking at around 220 calories, without the dressing. But if you get the Chicken Club Salad, that's a plate of 825 calories, before the dressing. The Bacon Bacon Cheeseburger has less than that. That's about the same as a Jumbo Jack and medium fries.

Over at Wendy's, that Mandarin Chicken Salad might seem tempting, with only 170 calories. But that's only before the noodles, almonds, and dressing. Those kick you up to 610 calories, giving you more calories than the Big Bacon Classic sandwich.

So "salad" might be a good starting word, but it's not enough to guarantee healthy eating. Some good words to tack on there would be "grilled" (as in the meat), "low-cal" (as in the dressing), "sensible" (as in the portion size), and fresh (as in the ingredients, because fresh vegetables are quite the opposite of bland).

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Commemorating An End To Procrastination

I think I'll do today's blog entry tommorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Do It Now! Do It Today!

I am a master procrastinator. The champ. If there were any area of life where procrastination triumphed, mine would be a Rocky-level success story.

Unfortunately, this is planet Earth, and here, procrastination is debilitating. Today I re-read some things I wrote several years ago, around the same time my daughters were born.

Guess what I was talking about?

Yup. My weight issues. My money issues. My job issues. My school (or lack thereof) issues. The same nonsense I'm still dealing with. The same problems I blog about here day after day.

My younger self actually wrote, "Even if I got back in school today, I wouldn't be ready for a masters program until I was 30. 30! My life would be nearly half over."

I want to throttle that kid. You're barreling down on 30 now, man! It came even though you weren't in school. What were you waiting for?

He probably deserves some slack. Though he didn't know it, he was only a couple of months away from doctors finding a tumor in his newborn daughter's leg and having some of the hardest decisions of his life.

The guy that needs throttled is me--the one who came through all that and still hasn't learned. Who still can't do today what he can put off 'till tomorrow.

So part of my turnaround will be transforming from Erik, Royal High King of Postponement into Erik, Guy Who Does It As Soon As It Needs Done.

I'm going to change a couple of habits that, while I realize are only symptoms of the problem, will help me remember this change and give my positive self-talk some back-up.

From now on I will:

1. Refill the gas tank on half a tank, rather than waiting for it to empty.

2. I will take out the trash before the rim is reached, not once the pile above the rim is no longer architecturally capable of supporting more trash.

3. I will get anything that must be done before the end of the month done by the 17th of that month.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Down Another Pound

Well, I'm down another pound. I have about 10 weeks to go until my birthday, and about 16 pounds to reach my goal of 220 by my birthday. Will I be able to pull it off? Will I shed this excess weight and rise above my yo-yo past, or will I crash and burn, brought down in a blaze of deep-fried foods and oversized portions?

Stay tuned, true believers, as the saga continues . . .

Monday, April 25, 2005

Testing A New Posting Feature

Yet another attempt to try and facilitate my publishing this blog easier,
leaving me more time to write my fiction and other things.

Hopefully, this experiment will not go as freakishly wrong as it went on my
other blog, leaving my entire page looking like portions of another blog had
been cut and pasted into mine. We will have to see.

In the meantime, the 365-day-turnaround continues, and new weight
information should be up tomorrow in the new tale of the tape.

Also, just like I've used Dave Ramsey's baby steps to try to control my
finances, and Bill Phillips' Body-For-Life to get going on fitness,
I'm once again giving Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way a shot at
re-energizing my creativity. It was a birthday gift from my dad shortly
before the birth of my first daughter, and I started the 12 weeks, but never
finished them. This time, I'm giving it another go. We'll see if this
makes any sparks, and any sparks will be duly reported.