Quiz: Choosing the Best of The Worst Meals

by Charles Platkin, PhD

One of the keys — and there are many — to losing weight and keeping it off is troubleshooting. The reality is, you won’t always have easy access to healthy choices, which can make dieting and eating healthy a real challenge. Especially when you’re away from the controlled environment of your own kitchen, it’s a lot easier to find high-calorie “junk” and/or unhealthy foods than it is to find the “good stuff.” It’s up to you to make the best choices given your circumstances. And as you may already know, what you think is the best is not necessarily the healthiest.

Almost all of these topics have been covered in past columns ( www.dietdetective.com/column.aspx), so put your nutrition knowledge to a practical test and use this quiz to see how much “brushing up” you need to do.

1. Which is the best on-the-go breakfast option?
a)     Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a roll
b)     A smoothie and a piece of fruit
c)     Bagel with cream cheese and coffee
d)    No breakfast. Who has time!

2. You’re having a salad bar lunch today. You know salad bars have a lot of “hidden high-fat foods,” so you try to choose your meal wisely. What do you choose?
a)     Iceberg lettuce salad mixed with Italian dressing
b)     Grilled Chicken Caesar salad
c)     Mixed greens and veggies with a scoop of tuna salad and dressing on the side
d)    Mixed greens and veggies with 1/2 cup of chickpeas, a hard-boiled egg and dressing on the side

3. You’re going to a pizza parlor for lunch. Pick the best meal.
a)     One slice of pizza and a garden salad
b)     An order of garlic knots
c)     One slice of pizza and a large fruit punch
d)    Two slices of pizza with light cheese

4. It’s lunchtime at your favorite deli. What kind of sandwich won’t cause you to pack on pounds?
a)     Tuna salad on whole-wheat bread
b)     Breaded fried chicken cutlet on a roll
c)     Bologna with lettuce and tomato on white bread
d)    Ham and cheese with lettuce and tomato on whole-wheat bread

5. You’re on a road trip visiting out-of-state family. The drive is taking longer than expected, and you need to make a pit stop for some grub. Unfortunately, there are only fast-food restaurants on the interstate. You feel as if you are about ready to chew off your arm from hunger, so you pull over at the next rest area. What do you order?
a)     Fried fish filet sandwich
b)     Chicken club sandwich with bacon
c)     Nine-piece chicken nuggets
d)    Small hamburger

Check your answers here:

1. A smoothie and a piece of fruit (Choice b)
As long as the smoothie has no added sugar (check the ingredients list), it’s the best choice, along with a piece of fruit. Fruit has antioxidants and powerful nutrients.  Why not Choice c? Most bagels are HUGE (which means high in ), and are made with refined white flour (meaning no fiber). Additionally, when you buy your bagel at a deli they usually smear on enough cream cheese for four bagels. Choice a is loaded with fat and calories. Choice d should never be an option!

2. Mixed greens and veggies with 1/2 a cup of chickpeas, a hard-boiled egg and dressing on the side (Choice d)
This salad has it all — a variety of vitamins and minerals, lots of fiber, protein from the chickpeas and egg, and even a little fat from the egg yolk and salad dressing. Why were the other salads not up to par? Let’s see. Choice a, iceberg lettuce mixed with dressing. If the dressing is not on the side, the salad is probably very high in calories. Order dressing on the side and put it on with a fork. Choice b, Caesar salad, is so high in fat and calories that you might as well order a Big Mac, which may actually be lower in fat and calories. Choice c wins second place. The tuna salad was its downfall. Most salad bars load their tuna with tons of mayo, which adds 100 calories per tablespoon, turning your seemingly healthy choice into a disaster.

3. Two slices with light cheese (Choice d)
Pizza often gets a bad rap. This fast-food choice can be a surprisingly nutrient-dense meal containing heart-healthy olive oil, garlic, calcium and lycopene. The average person eats two or more slices, or roughly 9 ounces of pizza in one sitting. That’s about 540 calories. To make yours healthier, consider blotting the oil and asking for half the normal amount of cheese to lower the fat and calorie content. Or, to reduce calories even more, go cheeseless. Order your pizza with healthy toppings like grilled chicken or vegetables, and sprinkle your cheeseless pizza with some Parmesan for extra flavor. Ask for plenty of veggies — like broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms or even artichoke hearts. All these selections are low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients, which means you’ll feel fuller with fewer calories. Watch out for the extra cheese many pizzerias pile on when you order vegetable toppings, and make sure the vegetables aren’t drenched in oil or butter. Avoid meat toppings and stuffed pizza.

As for the other choices, if the garden salad (Choice a) has the dressing already mixed in, it’s probably high in calories. Always add dressing cautiously to avoid salad sabotage. Choices b and c would leave your meal “unbalanced” and/or too high in fat, calories and starch.

4. Ham and cheese with lettuce and tomato on 100 percent whole-wheat bread (Choice d)
What? Ham and cheese? No, you’re not seeing things. Ham is surprisingly lean at 55 calories per ounce (about one slice) ­ the same as roast beef and not much more than turkey. However, delis tend to be a little too generous with the meat and cheese, so ask them not to stack it too thick and ask for low-fat cheese if available.  The other three choices are very high in fat and calories: Choice a because of the added mayo, Choice b because it’s fried, and Choice c because it’s highly processed and, at 100 calories per ounce, just not worth it!

5. Small hamburger (Choice d)
The cooking method was the determining factor here. Another key word is small. Falling into the oversized fast-food trap and ordering super-large portions can easily add hundreds of extra calories to an already high-fat, high-calorie meal. The fish (Choice a) and the nuggets (Choice c) are fried — not good. And the club (Choice b) is typically filled with mayo and double the bread and meat of a normal sandwich.

How did you score? Give yourself 1 point for each correct answer.

5 Excellent! Nutrition Ph.D.
If you got all the answers right, you make wise choices in most situations that come your way! Congratulations!

3-4 Good! Nutritionist.
If you scored 3-4 points, you’re doing well. You make good choices in most situations; however, you may need some help making better choices in a wider variety of settings. Brush up on your nutrition knowledge by signing up for the Diet Detective weekly newsletter at www.dietdetective.com.

0-2 You Need Help!
If you scored 0 – 2 points, you need some help making wiser, healthier choices. Consider reading every column (they’re free at www.dietdetective.com/column.aspx).

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