May 29, 2008

Guilty Food: Restaurants Fudge the Truth

It appears that George Bush is not the only person in America not telling the truth. reports that independent testing by eight TV stations showed far more calories than advertised in many meals.

I have been advocating for quite a while for restaurants to display the calories of each meal. I didn't know I had to advocate for "truthful" calorie counting.

So it's very clear that restaurants realize if they actually presented the truth about the nutritional value of their food, we would not buy it. And everyday they come up with new ways to make sure you don't get that information, by fighting regulations and by shading the truth when they finally do present the information.

Eight TV stations owned by Scripps tested a small sample of diet menu dishes (one sample of 23 different items) from popular chain restaurants including Chili's, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, Applebee's and the Cheesecake Factory.

Reporters ordered off the low-calorie, low-fat menu. The food was then tested by lab technicians, who weighed each sample, extracted the fat and then figured out the calories in each meal.

Of the 23 items tested, 78 percent exceeded the fat limit listed on the menu and almost 69 percent of the samples went over the calorie count listed.

The guiltless grilled salmon at Chili's promises a dish that's 480 calories and 14 grams of fat. But the tests revealed the dish was actually 664 calories and 35 grams of fat. In fact, every "guiltless" item tested from Chili's contained more fat and calories than what was listed on the menu.

Chicken fajitas from On the Border Mexican Grill's "border smart" menu are listed as containing 570 calories and nine grams of fat. The serving tested weighed in at 654 calories and 26.5 grams of fat. And the dish came with a free "sample" of queso dip, salsa and chips that would add an additional 2,067 calories and 117 grams of fat.

The skinny chicken at the Macaroni Grill is supposed to be 500 calories and six grams of fat. Not bad at all, but if you eat the huge piece of bread they include, you get twice the calories and eight times the fat.

May 26, 2008

10 facts about childhood obesity

10 Facts You Should Know about childhood obesity from the

The average 10-year-old girl weighed 77 pounds in 1963; today, 88. The 10-year-old boy weighed 74; today, 85.

25 percent of all vegetables eaten in the United States are french fries or chips.


May 20, 2008

Remember weren't fat

Everything from coffee to sandwiches to plate size have expanded in the last few years.

Divine visually takes us down memory lane to the days when a cup of coffee was a cup of coffee, and not a grande latte, and when a couple of slices of pizza was a small lunch and not a broadsheet newspaper.

Check out the analysis of just eating pizza today. Two slices are 350 calories more today than yesterday. That adds up to 40 pounds over two decades.

Go to Divine

May 17, 2008

And the winner is...a loser!

To track how restaurants keep us fat I subscribe to the PR releases of restaurants. Day in and day out it is one new release after another of more fat, more calories, more beef and more bull.

Sometimes it's all wrapped up in a charity bun still dripping in saturated satire and spinkled with happy salt.

This week it's the Chili's Smokehouse Bacon Burger Showdown.

Amazingly, at Chili's the Bacon Burger won(?) the challenge.

Now think about this for one minute. The bacon burger that won has 1,530 calories without the ranch dressing. Add the dressing and fries and this meal has more than 2,100 calories. A normal male adult should have less than 2,000 calories for the entire day.

Nobody wins with that burger!

DALLAS, May 15 /PRNewswire/ -- "He's at the 10, the five ... he could go all the way!" Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints scored in the Chili's Grill & Bar(R) Smokehouse Bacon Burger Showdown, earning him $10,000 for his charity, The Drew Brees Foundation.

"It was such an honor to work with Chili's on this great campaign," said Brees. "I am excited that my burger, the mouth-watering Southern Smokehouse Bacon Burger won this contest, and am extremely grateful for the opportunity Chili's has provided me to give back to my Foundation."

The campaign, which began in late January, allowed guests to go online to Chili's Web site to vote on their favorite Smokehouse Bacon Burger. Additionally, guests could enter to win an all-expense-paid trip for two to any 2008 regular season pro or college football game and team helmets autographed by Brees, Minnesota Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson and Philadelphia Eagles' running back Brian Westbrook.

Brees' winning burger, the Southern Smokehouse Bacon Burger, was up against Peterson's Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Burger and Westbrook's Triple-the-Cheese Bacon Burger, respectively. Each player was vying for a chance to donate to their charity of choice. The Drew Brees Foundation provides care, education and opportunities for children facing adversity.

"Chili's greatly appreciates the participation of these world-class athletes that helped promote our popular mouth-watering Smokehouse Bacon Burgers," said Todd Diener, president of Chili's Grill & Bar. "We are honored that the proceeds from this campaign will serve the children of New Orleans and continue to strengthen this great city."

Restaurants may be forced to serve small portions

The Dallas Morning News reports consumers are cutting back on portions (not because of health, but because of costs). Any way it happens, it will be good for your waistline and wallet.

With the price of basic foodstuffs, such as wheat and corn, making restaurant prices rise like a soufflé, consumers are cutting back. In part they're eating out less, but they're also eating less when they go out.

That means treats like the aforementioned bite-size cakes, fancy alcoholic drinks – even french fries – are finding fewer takers.

"When cash on hand gets tight, consumers will act to preserve their visit frequency while more aggressively managing their spending" on the meal, explains Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and information services for the National Restaurant Association.

"I can feel the pressure" of rising prices, said former Dallas resident Brad Hilton, 41, who was dining with friends Sunday at Maguire's North Dallas on the Dallas Parkway.

"I've been splitting meals with my girlfriend rather than both of us ordering something," added Mr. Hilton, who estimates he eats half of his dinners out, down from 60 percent a few months ago. "It makes sense price-wise and health-wise since you get such big portions."

May 12, 2008

Chipotle's hires marketing genius who can't add

Restaurants have fought to keep calories off of the menu. Now that New York City requires it, here's a new way of keeping the consumer in the dark: lie about it.

The blog Midtown Lunch found that Chipotle's calorie numbers just don't add up. They put the range for a burriot as 420-918 calories. But as I found out just using Chipotle's own numbers on the website, you really can't have a burrito for less than 1,000 calories.

Midtown Lunch says:

Let’s take the basic burrito as an example. The Chipotle in my building has the range for any Burrito as 420-918 calories. Common sense might cause somebody to think “Hmmm, low probably refers to the vegetarian burrito, high is burrito with some sort of fatty meat”. That would be a faulty assumption.

According to the nutritional information on the Chipotle website, the flour tortilla *alone* is 290 calories, leaving one to wonder, what exactly is in this 420 calorie burrito?

So, by process of elimination, if you want a burrito on the low range of the calorie scale (420), you will be ordering a flour tortilla, filled with vegetarian black beans. No salsa. No sour cream. No rice. No cheese. Can that even be considered a burrito? Has anybody ordered a burrito like that? Ever?

The NY Post lists the Mexican Grilled Chicken Burrito at 1179, a full 250+ calories higher than any range listed on the Chipotle Menu.

When I first discovered Chipotle's my wife, thought the beans, rice and chicken would be a healthy alternative to the rest of the fast food restaurants. How wrong were we? A lot it turns out. We skip Chipotle's all together now. There's nothing good about gigantic sizes of calories disguised as healthy food.

May 1, 2008

Here are healthiest restaurants. Not! has just published the healthiest Fast-Food Restaurants.

And this tells you how confusing and complex buying food out can be.

The site chose these restaurants the best out of 43 sit-down and 53 fast-service chains:

Noodles & Company
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Au Bon Pain

They eliminated any restaurant that did not provide any nutritional information.

The rest were judged on healthy food preparation; the availability of organic or hormone-free foods; whole grains on the menu; limited or no trans-fats in all dishes; low-sodium options; healthy beverages; and portion control; as well as how easily you can access nutritional information.

Noodles & Company

On the surface -- like a lot of restaurants -- its menu looks reasonable. Lots of vegetables, salads and soups. But try to access nutritional information, and it takes 20 mouse clicks to find the calorie information. And then don't be surprised to find your meal at 1,000 calories or more. The mac and cheese is at least 1,050 itself and the suggested salad adds 350 calories.

Now remember this is the HEALTHIEST restaurant chain out of 96 in America...according to If you are watching your calories Noodles & Company recommend starting with a small order of Pad Thai at 380 calories and adding a small salad at 170 calories (the same as a McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese).

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Keep in mind this is the second healthiest restaurant in the free world. Chipotle does not practice anything close to portion control. Ninety-nine percent of the customers go in to order the huge 13-inch tortillo-wrapped burrito, and through the entire process you are asked over and over, "do you want meat, rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, corn salsa, etc." At the end you can have something the size of a yuletide log, and it weighs in at over 1,300 calories. Add chips and you have had all the calories for the day in this one 15-minute meal.

What did like so much about Chipotle: the hormone-free sour cream (at 120 calories).

And by the way, try and find the nutritional information on its site. Good luck, I couldn't. Google found it for me buried deep inside the website.


I'll look at one more...but you know where this is going.

Have just a bagel and cream cheese and you are talking 600 calories. (Remember you could have a large plate full of egg whites, mushrooms, and spinach for less than 200 calories.)

One pumpkin muffin sounds healthy, but it's 530 calories; for ONE muffin.

Good luck finding healthy food in fast-food restaurants. Each restaurant seems to have one item that's less than 300 calories, and they call it the healthy choice. After that, all the items will take you to the dark side.