Sunday, September 25, 2011

Somewhere Lighter and Below the Clouds

As the past several posts suggest, I've been thinking on a fair amount of “heavier” stuff – Eschatology and the nature of God. But I really don't “live there”, not full time.

After 2 courses of antibiotics and nearly 6 weeks, I think I've finally shaken the cough that's been plaguing me. That's the good news. The bad news is that I now have a sore throat, courtesy, of all things, of a yeast infection. The antibiotics killed off the bacterial competition, so the yeast have having a party in my throat. I am now fungus amongus!

As I've mentioned a couple of times, I've been losing weight, probably on a 2-3 year plan so as to make the things I'm doing differently part of my lifestyle. I recently read the Eat This Not That! Restaurant Survival Guide. Though it has some good practical advice, I really didn't care for its theme that restaurants are in a grand conspiracy to make you fat. It's much simpler and there is no malice or conspiracy. Restaurants want you to enter their premises and buy their product so they can make money. In practical terms, that means they will do what it takes to get you to enter their door, look attractive, serve food that will taste good to you, in portions that will make you think you are getting a good deal. Believe it or not, it really is that simple. The result, of course, often is foods that are high calorie, high fat, high carbohydrate, high sodium, in large portions. You could whine about it, get your legislature or city council to regulate restaurants out of business, or eat intelligently. Guess what? I think the latter is the best choice, because if restaurants get regulated out of business, the grocery store will gladly sell you enough butter, cream, mayonnaise, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, soda and salt to continue digging yourself to an early grave with your knife, fork and spoon.

So, you are at a restaurant … what to do. As the grocery list above suggests, there are certain things you need to avoid or be careful of. Let me illustrate. You are at In N Out, and you want a Double-Double. It's too easy to get it as a combo, as is, and get multiple refills as you eat … and too easy for that one meal to be nearly as many calories as you should eat all day. Or by ordering and eating more carefully, you can end up with a calorie count for the meal that is much more reasonable.

Starting with your burger, there's a lot of calories in the cheese and the mayonnaise-based sauce. Do you really want that cheese and sauce? Like most fast food places, In N Out uses American cheese, which is not exactly a high flavor cheese (if it really is a cheese). Why not pass on the mediocre cheese and at another meal have a smaller amount of really good, high flavor, cheese (e.g. sharp cheddar or jack)? And that high-fat sauce? Why not substitute ketchup, which has few calories and no fat. Just passing on the sauce and the cheese could save you about 200 calories! And that soda? Do you really want it? Would water or iced tea do just as well? Think about it. 16 ounces of soda – one large cup with ice in it – is about 200 calories, and every refill is another 200 calories. Pick the iced tea or water, or if you “must” have soda, have just one cup, drink it only with your food, and don't drink the whole cup. Now, the fries … do you really need the fries? If you're reeeeeally hungry or did a lot of exercise earlier in the day, maybe you do. Otherwise, why not just go with your double hamburger? That's quite a bit of food. Or if you're there with two or three people, why not share one order of fries among you, and eat less than half (or less than a third) of the fries? The bottom line? If you got your double hamburger, without cheese, ketchup instead of sauce, no fries, with water or iced tea, you just saved yourself 800 or more calories. If you are trying to eat 1500-2000 calories a day, that 800 calories is a lot!

You can do the same kind of thing just about anywhere you eat. Pass on or use sparingly, butter, cheese, cream sour cream, and mayonnaise (and sauces based on those ingredients). Does your meal come with bread or bread sticks? Chips and salsa? Skip or limit the bread and chips. When I eat chips at a Mexican restaurant, I've planned the meal into the day and I count the number of chips I eat. Salads? Oil-, Mayonnaise-, buttermilk-, cream-, sour-cream- and cheese-based dressings are not your waistline's friend. On the other hand many fat-free and light dressings are not too good. So always, always, always get your dressing on the side and use as little as possible. And beware cheese as a salad ingredient. Does your meal come with rice or potato as a side? Don't load it up with butter and/or sour cream, and just eat half a cup or 3/4 of a cup of either. Better yet, substitute vegetables (or an extra serving of vegetables). Most sit-down restaurants are very flexible, and even fast food restaurants have room for flexibility. For your meat course, sauces, gravies, and butter add calories. Go with grilled or broiled, seasoned, and maybe meat juice or fruit-based sauces (if any). Most meats are not too bad on calories, with one exception, sausages.

So does that mean pizza is a no-no? Well if your fave is a stuffed-crust deep dish with sausage and pepperoni, that would be a problem. On the other hand, a couple of slices of a thin (or regular) crust pizza with ham and pineapple or vegetarian toppings (mushrooms, bell pepper, olives onions) can be reasonable.

If you learn to eat intelligently, restaurants can be very reasonable special meals.

This was supposed to be a quick, brief, post. Is there a spiritual gift of loquacity?

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