Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How muffins give you a "muffin top" in jeans!

Last weekend, my husband and I ate at a local restaurant that's supposed to be organic and all-natural. I was a little suspicious. The menu claims that the kitchen runs on wind energy (this is a restaurant on a very crowded corner in Manhattan--I think I would've noticed the wind mill....) and solar power.

The menu had lots of veggies on its list which was a good sign that it had a healthy focus. But before I ordered, I also wondered just how many calories are in their dishes. After all,  a recent Cornell study showed that customers typically underestimate what they're consuming while eating out by at least 50 calories. So was the gluten-free penne any less calories than say, their Buenos Aires steak entree? 

When I got home, I decided to do a little digging to see what are some of the foods that seem low-cal--but aren't. Do you have any to add?

Bran muffins
There is a fabulous gourmet shop downstairs from my building that touts "low-fat" muffins. They don't have their nutritional info posted so I judged their claim on faith. But actually, these muffins were giving me a "muffin top!" Dr. Liz Applegate, Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis told me that bran muffins are so huge that they can contain at least 500 calories and 15g of fat even if they're also loaded with bran which is good source of fiber to fill me up way longer than a bagel and cream cheese.

Baked chips!
I figured since they're baked and not fried in oil, they are low-cal. No way, says Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, a registered dietician in St. Louis. She told me that since they're high in quick-digesting simple cars, they're not going to keep me satisfied for long so I'll end up eating again fast to rack up the calories.

Turkey burgers!
Now, I figured this was a safe bet (in fact, I ordered a turkey meatball dish at the "green" restaurant on Saturday). But apparently not all ground turkey products are lean in fat: "Unless the label says ground turkey BREAST, you're likely consuming fattier cuts from the bird," explained Applegate. Here's the craziest part: it can even be higher in fat and calories than lean ground beef. 

Low-fat ice creams and yogurts
This one is not a problem for me but I thought I'd add it anyway. Those low-fat or low-cal frozen dairy desserts are so not no-cal. In fact, Cornell researchers found that low-cal ice creams only contain 11 percent fewer calories than full-fat cartons. "Most people assume the difference is much more significant," explained Tanner-Blasiar to me.

I guess steamed or raw veggies are just about the only thing we can take for granted....

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