The Good, the Bad, and the Obvious

20080326-eatthis.jpgEat This Not That, the selling-like-hot-cakes, snack-sized book by hyper-ambitious and heat-seeking-attention-missile Men's Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko (with Matt Goulding), proclaims itself to be the "No-Diet Weight Loss Solution" (to eating at national chains). As someone who is on the eternal quest for the no-diet weight-loss solution, I can tell you quite emphatically that this book is not it.

In fact, it aggregates heaping portions of the obvious (did you know that a drive-thru combo meal of a Burger King Triple Whopper with cheese fries and a king-size Coke has 2,200 calories and is therefore not a smart healthy eating choice? I'm shocked) with a few small side orders of surprises (Chipotle's Mexican Grilled Chicken Burrito has 1,107 calories, 113 carbohydrate grams, and 2,656 mg of sodium) and some useful swaps when confronted with national chain menus.

Zinczenko's list of the 20 worst foods in the U.S. includes such surprises as the worst kids' meal, Macaroni Grill's Double Macaroni 'n Cheese (1210 calories); the worst salad, On the Border's Grande Taco Salad with Taco Beef (1,450 calories); and the worst dessert, Chili's Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream (1600 calories).

The envelope, please, for Zinczenko's Worst Food in America: Outback Steak House's Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing (2,900 calories, 182 grams of fat, 240 grams of carbs). It is fun to identify and read about these fries, but it's not exactly an earth-shattering revelation. Note to self: Stay away from huge portions of bacon-cheese fries.

Surprising Findings

Once you get past the attention-grabbing numbers and nonrevelations, Zinczenko's book can be useful when you're eating at a chain restaurant that doesn't readily display the calorie counts and nutritional values of all the items on its menu. Here's some of the book's more interesting (and surprising findings).

  • A turkey and swiss sandwich from Au Bon Pain has 850 calories because of the combination of the creamy dressing and the swiss cheese. My guess is that if you asked someone at Au Bon Pain to skip the dressing, you'd bring the overall calories down.
  • The Chicken Caesar wrap at Blimpie has 937 calories, double the calories of the grilled chicken sub. It turns out that, in general, chicken caesar wraps are the wrong way to go in almost any chain restaurant.
  • When you stop at Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast, the ham, egg, and cheese on an English muffin (310 calories) is a better bet than the multigrain bagel with light cream cheese (500 calories).

The most interesting finding in the book is Zinczenko's restaurant report card for fast food restaurants. He awards the highest grade, A+, to Chick-Fil-A, which specializes in fried chicken breast sandwiches. He says that "Not a single sandwich breaks the 500-calorie barrier, a feat unmatched in the fast-food world." Ah, yes, the joys of portion control (most Chick-Fil-A sandwiches are not supersized), the one most useful aspect of weight control, which gets nary a mention in this book.

Related
The Healthiest Chains in the U.S.
Eat This, Not That [Amazon]

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