Quiz: Choosing the Best of The Worst Meals, Part 2

by Charles Platkin, PhD

1. You’re working late and starting to feel really hungry. You need something to hold you over until dinner, but you forgot to pack an emergency snack so you have to choose something from the vending machine. What do you choose? (Come on – this should be an easy one…)
a)    Pretzels
b)    Potato chips
c)    Reduced-fat chocolate chip cookies
d)   Peanuts

2. It’s your annual Labor Day barbecue, an event you look forward to every year. You want to have fun and enjoy the festivities without causing havoc on your waistline. What can you eat that tastes yummy and won’t make you feel like a party pooper?
a)    Cheeseburger
b)    Chicken and veggie kabobs
c)    No meat; just one scoop of macaroni and one scoop of potato salad
d)   No food; just beer — after all, it’s fat free!

3. Not only the ingredients but also the cooking method can greatly affect the calorie and fat content of the meal. Which of the following chicken dishes do you think is typically the lowest in fat and ?
a)    Chicken stir-fry
b)    Southern fried chicken
c)    Chicken casserole baked in cream of mushroom soup
d)   General Tso’s chicken

4. You’re going out to eat at a new restaurant chosen by friends. You wouldn’t really categorize any of the choices as low-calorie, but you’re feeling pretty confident as you order. Which entrée would you choose?
a)    Chicken Parmesan and spaghetti
b)    Grilled sirloin steak with baked potato and veggies
c)    Chicken cordon bleu with mashed potatoes and veggies
d)   Shrimp scampi over rice

5. It’s Friday and you’re off to happy hour at the local pub for cocktails and conversation. Which beverage is the lowest-calorie choice?
a)    A light beer
b)    Vodka and club soda
c)    Gin and tonic
d)   A glass of wine

So? How do you think you did? Read below for correct answers and explanations.

1. Peanuts(Choice d)
A 1-ounce bag of peanuts is high in fat and calories. Thirty peanuts have 166 calories and 14 grams of fat. So why do peanuts win the vending machine choice award? The fat is primarily mono- and polyunsaturated heart-healthy fats. One ounce of peanuts also contains nearly 7 grams of protein and 2.3 grams of fiber, which will help to keep you feeling satisfied until dinner. In addition, peanuts are a good source of vitamin E, which is known to have antioxidant properties and to boost immune function, and magnesium, which relaxes muscles and increases metabolism. Some low-calorie pretzels (Choice a) are a good second choice (and the first choice if you’re allergic to nuts) even though they have no nutritional value. The sugary cookies (Choice c) and fatty potato chips (Choice b) won’t curb your hunger for long; therefore, these are not good choices.

2. Chicken and veggie kabob (Choice b)
This choice wins for several reasons: the variety of food groups, the low-fat preparation method and the lean protein it contains. A runner-up would be Choice a, the cheeseburger. (I hope you’re using extra-lean ground meat and low-fat cheese!) Choice c is not only too starchy but also high in fat and calories from the mayo. As for Choice d ­ let’s not even go there!

3. Chicken stir-fry (Choice a)
Stir-frying is defined as frying quickly in very little oil. Stir-fry dishes are generally loaded with veggies, which is another reason why Choice a is the winner. Choices b andd are deep-fried, which by now you know is not good. Did the word “baked” in Choice c fool you? Baking is a great low-fat cooking method; however, using cream of mushroom soup adds a lot of fat and calories. If this dish appeals to you, look for low-calorie cream soups, which are available at most supermarkets.

4. Sirloin steak with baked potato and veggies (Choice b)
Look, I’m not a huge steak advocate, because it’s very high in calories, high in saturated fat, and the research on meat in general is not so favorable from a perspective. But sirloin is one of the leaner cuts of beef, and in a restaurant it’s usually available in a relatively small cut – 8 or 9 ounces versus the 12 or 24 ounces for some other cuts such as T-bone or prime rib. In this case, both the chicken dishes (Choices a and c) are deep-fried, which adds a considerable amount of fat and calories to a naturally lean piece of poultry. Shrimp (Choice d) is very low in fat and calories, but not when it’s prepared scampi style. Some scampi recipes require as much as a whole stick of butter – for ONE plate! Your best bet would be to ask for a char-grilled piece of chicken and steamed vegetables seasoned with garlic. Very often if you simply ask for what you want, the restaurant will accommodate you.

5. Vodka and club soda (Choice b)
Choice b
wins because it contains only 65 calories per cocktail. All 80-proof liquors (the proof that is commonly served), including vodka, rum, gin, tequila and whiskey, contain approximately 65 calories per ounce (1 ounce is the amount used to prepare one cocktail or in one shot). Club soda contains zero calories. If you want a drink with a little more flavor, try a flavored vodka such as raspberry, citrus or vanilla with club soda. Choice a, a light beer, gets second place. Most 12-ounce bottles of light beer contain 100 calories. Choice d, a glass of wine, can also be a good choice. A 5-ounce serving of wine contains about 100 calories, but be careful — many bars and restaurants use giant wine glasses and pour up to 8 ounces of wine per glass, upping the calories to 160! Choice b is the loser here because tonic is just as high in calories as cola and other sodas. Juices such as orange, cranberry or pineapple add a lot of calories to cocktails as well.

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

5 Excellent! 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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