Beware of the Buffet

I went to Las Vegas this past weekend. For those of you who’ve been there, you know what I mean when I say that everything is larger than life there. From the hotels, to the casinos, the shows and the throngs of people, it’s a busy, colorful place. There’s a lot to do. And many of us love to patronize restaurants there. And one type of eating establishment found in the city that is rarely ignored is the buffet. Buffet restaurants exist in all cities in the U.S. and beyond. Loaded with a variety of foods they can tempt even the healthiest of eater to overindulge, although there are many who resist the allure. Can we do more calorie, fat, and carb damage at a buffet restaurant than at any other place that we eat? You bet we can. And we often do. I love to watch people as they navigate the various stations at the buffets and see what they choose to dish up and how much of it they pile on their plates. And while most buffets have a salad bar, the reality is that there are far more foods that are of a less healthy nature. Fried foods, buttery and mayo heavy concoctions, gravies, sauces and more abound. I have to admit I let loose a little bit and had some higher calorie and fat foods, such as eggs benedict (sans the Canadian bacon), hash browns and a small serving of desert items. I enjoyed these items, as they are treats for me and not an everyday or even every month staple. I made sure that...

Fast Food: Where the Jobs Are

Fast food corporations are blamed for many things. The food, the environment, and the jobs they provide, you name it, they’re in the bulls-eye. And while they are certainly not perfect and can use some improvement, one of the issues that I can’t understand and definitely know is not true is the reputation that fast food employment has – that it’s a dead-end job. Having worked for the giant in the fast food business, McDonald’s, I can tell you first-hand that the jobs there are anything but a road to nowhere. They are what you want them to be and if climbing the ladder is what you aspire to, the opportunities are there. Conversely, if you want only a part-time or a short-term gig, that’s available to you as well. In many ways, fast food corporations are equal opportunity employers. I worked for McDonald’s as real estate manager for the Southern California region. During my tenure there, about 50 percent of the regional staff had started working for the company in their teens behind the counter at their local McDonald’s restaurant. Many didn’t attend college, opting instead to continue working for McDonald’s after graduating from high school. Many of them went on to high positions of power within the company. And the Southern California region isn’t the only example. About 40 percent of the top 50 McDonald’s executives started their careers with a job at one of the company’s restaurants. Approximately 50 percent of franchisees of this fast food giant began working there behind the restaurant counter as crew. This is anything but dead-end. And McDonald’s isn’t the only...

Battling the Bulge

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. That’s such an alarming number. And it gets worse. If we continue on this path, by 2030 over 40% of us will be obese. We’ll have leap-frogged over the overweight category. And adults, it’s not just us, as our children are bulking up right along with us. And those of you living in other countries, don’t rest easy. The obesity epidemic is a world traveler. So is the product of carrying too much weight on our frames simply a matter of too-tight clothes and a grimace as we pass by a mirror? Most of us know that this isn’t the case. Being overweight or obese opens us up to a variety of disease states and conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, certain cancers and more. And, unfortunately, this is not an adult-only risk. Children are susceptible as well. I see many young patients who are overweight or obese who are experiencing problems associated with their weight. A good example is diabetes. Who remembers that type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes? Guess what?  Children now get it; thus the name change.  A very alarming possibility is that if we continue on this weight gain trend, our children may be the first generation to have shorter live spans than their parents. So what can we do to help keep unwanted weight off? Do fad diets work? Who of you have been on one? Many, I’m sure. And we then know what the answer is and it’s a resounding “no.” Many studies have shown that they don’t in the long...

Fast Food vs. Sit-Down Restaurants

Where is it often easier to consume more calories in one meal than you need in a whole day:fast food or sit-down restaurants? If you shouted out “fast food,” you’re wrong. Surprised? You’re definitely not the only one. Why is this the case? Let’s delve into just this question. When you go to a sit-down restaurant the edible temptations begin almost immediately. What do they put in the middle of the table almost upon arrival? You got it, the bread/chip basket. Before we’ve even selected our entrée, we can eat more calories than we need in the entire meal (maybe even the entire day).  And what happens when we finish off that basket?  They bring us another one. At fast food restaurants, we don’t get the bread basket option. Once we open our menus at a sit-down restaurant, we have a lot of choices including appetizer, main meal, sides and, of course, dessert. We can also order a variety of beverages, from water to fancy cocktails sporting umbrellas. Appetizers can be a huge calorie guzzler.  For example, the Outback Steakhouse Bloomin Onion has 1,959 calories! This is more calories than most of us need in a whole day. Granted, most of us would share this fried concoction, but we would likely have more what Outback considers a serving size, which weighs in at 326 calories. Staying with Outback, even if we order a salad for our main meal, we could find ourselves in trouble. The Aussie Grilled Chicken Salad with mustard vinaigrette has 1,030 calories. This is about double the amount of calories that many of us should consume the...

Why I chose to be a dietitian.

I’ve had more than a few people ask me what inspired me to become a dietitian. These individuals often think that it’s because I used to work for McDonald’s Corporation and the food they serve drove me away. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I enjoyed working there. And I like the food. The main reason that I left my job at McDonald’s was that as I found myself in my mid-forties I wanted to do something different. I chose to follow a life-long passion. For most of my adult life I have been keenly interested in eating for health. I stopped eating red meat while in my teens and none has passed through my lips going on 36 years. I don’t even remember what it tastes like. And much to my carnivore husband’s chagrin, I don’t know how to cook it well. How do I benefit from not eating red meat? Better heart health, for one. And since heart disease runs rampant in my family, this is a very good thing. Through the years I have certainly eaten meals at a variety of fast food restaurants. Since my teens, none of these meals have included a hamburger. I’ve enjoyed many a grilled chicken sandwich (sans mayo), side salads and apple slices. I’ve had quite a few turkey burgers, yogurt parfaits and even low-fat ice cream cones. Does that mean that you red meat eaters can’t have a hamburger as part of a healthy diet? Of course not. A single patty burger with lettuce, tomato, onion (if you like) and preferably no mayo is certainly a decent sandwich,...