Let’s be honest. We all know how much we love that food that everyone says is bad for us. Burgers, fries, pizza, tacos and those all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets. But what are some of the scientific facts about the food we eat every day. Read “Restaurant Confidential,” by Michael F. Jacobson and Jayne G. Hurleyit, it is chock full of scientific facts about food and fat. When I read it, I was mesmerized. No, I said to myself, a fried seafood platter can’t have 2,200 calories and 39 grams of saturated fat. I felt a chill when the authors called fettuccine Alfredo a “heart attack on a plate” and a double cheeseburger a “coronary bypass special.” I reached for a Hershey bar with almonds and kept reading.
The authors kept talking about saturated fat. I have a mental image of saturated fat as these spinning tiny globes of fat slowly inserting themselves into burgers and pizza and tacos.
A hamburger with fries. When you go to a fast food burger place, you know you’re eating a lot of fat. But if you think going to a restaurant and ordering a plain burger with mustard, lettuce, tomato and onion is a better idea, think again. These burgers usually have twice the fat of a fast food burger and a full day’s allotment of saturated fat. Why? Sizerestaurant burgers are usually larger. Add fries and you reach 1,240 calories and 1 days worth of saturated fat.
One of my favorites, a mushroom cheeseburger. When I order this one, I always chant the mantra mushrooms are healthy. Alas, I found out that the mushrooms are usually sauted with onions and the bun has mayo. If you order it with a small order of onion rings, the fat really surrounds you. Ready for this? The mushroom cheeseburger with small onion rings has the combined fat of five strips of bacon, four Hostess Twinkies, three slices of a large Domino’s Pepperoni Pizza, two Dairy Queen Banana Splits and a McDonald’s Big Mac. Honest. I read this and shuddered.
Pizza. No way around it, eating pizza is eating fat. On the other hand, the authors of “Restaurant Confidential” cite one source from the American Dietetic Association as saying that it’s healthy. My spirits rose as I read this. “You get your grain in the crust; you get tomato sauce, which can count as a vegetable; a cheese, which is your dairy; and protein in many toppings.” For a brief moment, I felt heartened. Then I read on.
The authors analyzed 15 popular types of pizzas from 36 pizzerias, ranging from major chains to small sit-down restaurants. To reduce the fat content they suggest ordering a half-the-cheese pizza. This means half the normal amount. Better yet, request a no-cheese pizza. This sounds like heresy, but they recommend a Tricolore Salad Pizza. It’s covered with arugula, radicchio, red-leaf lettuce, diced tomatoes, shaved Parmesan and a vinaigrette dressing. Can you imagine ordering this at Domino’s or Peter Pan? Give it a try.
I grew up eating tacos and never gave the fat content a second thought. They were just tacos. Corn or flour tortillas stuffed with anything you had in the refrigerator. Now I know better. I shudder to think about all that fat I ate in all those years when I was growing up in San Antonio, Texas. On the other hand, I enjoyed them.
Chicken is healthy is another of my mantras. When it comes to chicken tacos, however, the mantra breaks down. Two chicken tacos with refried beans and rice contain 1,040 calories and 42 grams of fat, 13 of them saturated. Two chicken enchiladas with refried beans and rice have 1,260 calories, 57 grams of fat, 19 of them saturated. But they sure taste good. How to cut down on the calories and fat? Order one taco or one enchilada and a salad instead of rice and beans. But then what are tacos or enchiladas without rice and beans.
Chinese all-you-can-eat buffets. I love these. All that chicken and those vegetables and rice choices make me feel proud. I am eating healthy. According to “Restaurant Confidential,” I need to think carefully at these buffets. My all-time favorite is chicken fried rice (chicken is healthy). An order of chicken fried rice contains 1,480 calories and 50 grams of fat. The recommended total daily intake of calories is 2,000. Sweet and sour pork has 1,610 calories and 71 grams of fat. Another illusion shattered. I can always order steamed rice, but it doesn’t have those globes of fat that saturate my taste buds.
After reading “Restaurant Confidential” I felt slightly depressed. All my worst fears about my favorite foods were confirmed. Given my age, these foods are only occasional treats now. Mostly I eat vegetables, fruits and steamed fish and chicken. But I still like that occasional burger and fries, that pepperoni pizza, tacos and that visit to the Chinese buffet. I guess it’s a matter of personal choice. I can give up food with fat altogether, or I can indulge myself once in a while. You decide.