I used to enjoy stopping in at Starbucks from time to time and treating myself to a gooey sweet frothy beverage. Even the six-dollar price tag didn't slow me down. Just listen to that name: “Caramel Machiato”; it just rolls off your tongue like a mouthful of goodness.
But then my wife Anita clued me in that my favorite delicacy was apparently loaded with roughly 300 calories worth of fat, sugar and empty, no-good-for-you nothingness.
“That can’t be right,” I exclaimed. “It’s coffee.”
So, on my next visit, I ordered my sweet treat with skim milk. I grimaced when I placed my order, and once I got my cup, I may have bragged a little to Anita.
“Did you get ‘em to leave off the whipped cream?” she asked, raising an eyebrow as she sipped on her herbal tea. “That’s about 60 to 110 calories and 6 to 11 grams of fat.”
So the next time, I got a no-fat, no-whip Caramel Machiato, and winked at Anita.
“Did you get the regular vanilla syrup in it?” she asked. “Two pumps of syrup adds on 40 calories and 10 grams of sugar.”
The next time I went to Starbucks, I just ordered a hot tea.
Here’s the thing: once you really understand exactly what’s in the food and drinks you love, it’s difficult to find the same blind enjoyment in them that you once did.
Here’s some other tidbits that wrung the love out of my favorite foods:
- Just because you’re eating a salad doesn’t mean you’re God’s gift to dieting. A scant tablespoon of a full-fat dressing can pack 50 calories onto your meal. At a salad per day, that tablespoon of dressing on each salad equals roughly 5 pounds a year.
- Energy bars are well-known for being full of healthful vitamins and minerals. However, that little bar is also packed with calories, a lot of them coming in at 200 or more. That’s appropriate for an athlete who needs to maintain fuel without a lot of bulk, but as a snack, that’s a heap of calories.
- I used to down a lot of sports drinks when playing basketball, but lately have learned that drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade typically contain as much as two-thirds the sugar of sodas and more sodium to boot. The same holds true for sweetened waters such as VitaminWater and SoBe Life Water. I’ve transitioned to this new drink I’ve discovered: water.
- A year ago, I was drinking a buttload of Diet Cokes. Come to find out that caffeine increases your insulin level which has the end result of slowing down your fat-burning system. The lack of calories in diet sodas, teas and coffee are truly deceiving. Restrict your caffeine intake for faster weight loss.
- Ever wondered why restaurant soup tastes better than what you make at home? Roughly 90% of restaurant's soups are simply loaded with fat, salt and cholesterol. In fact, a bowl of Quiznos's Mushroom Bisque has 18 grams of fat per cup. Be aware that substituting soup for a salad is not always the healthier choice.
- You ran out of the house without breakfast, so what’s wrong with picking up a muffin? The fact is, the lowfat muffins at Starbucks contain 380 calories each. Yes, that's the lowfat one. The regular muffins clock in at about 475 calories each, and many of them come sprinkled with even more sugar on top.
- We all know that soda is bad for us; what many of us don’t realize is just how much of it we drink. Most restaurants provide free refills to convince you it’s a good deal, and you keep drinking because… hey, free soda! But empty calories are just empty calories; plan on having no more than one glass because it adds up to too many calories, too quickly. Think about it: you don't get back from a restaurant and exclaim " Wow, that was some really delicious soda!"
- Let’s face it: fast food isn’t what it was in the good ol’ days. Today, an average fast food meal consists of a burger with 6 ounces of meat and a drink that can be from a quart to a half-gallon (32 to 64 ounces). In the 1950's, a fast food meal consisted of a burger with only 1 ounce of meat and the drink was only a cup (8 ounces).
For instance, he was touting Starbuck’s spinach & feta wraps, giving it mad props for its great taste and the fact that it only has 240 calories. In my comment, I pointed out the fact that the sammich comes in at 48% of the DV for sodium (he had two of them), and the ingredients list is something straight out of a food chemistry textbook. I also told him to keep in mind that it's coming out now that restaurants are notoriously underreporting calorie counts. Why? Because they can and there's no reason not to...
While it’s true that we have never been in an age where we’ve been bombarded by so many food choices, larger-than-life portions and eating opportunities, we’ve also never been in an age where nutritional information is more easily or readily accessible.
Open your eyes, and you just might shut your mouth.