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Friday, November 28, 2008

Calories? Who's counting?

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you slave over a hot oven or enjoy the work of someone else's culinary toil? Did you skip the big meal because of your economic situation?

Typically, I am not into the Thanksgiving meal. My coworkers will vouch that my foodie days are long over (a trend I went through from about 18-22 years old, which has never returned), so the idea of spending an entire day, or several days, worrying over and working on one meal never appealed much. My mother truly detests cooking and all the heavy clean-up that surrounds it, so we've celebrated family Thanksgivings in restaurants for many years. In fact, we spend Easter and Christmas in restaurants, too. While there's much to enjoy about that scenario, restaurants are often very crowded on holidays, the staff is cranky because they'd rather be home, and the food often seems like it was prepared back in the Puritan times and then left under a warming lamp...

This year we had a wonderful meal. We chose a simpler, less expensive, neighborhood restaurant, and clearly that was the right choice (Chessie's 11 Grille in Barrington, IL, if you are wondering). Everything tasted fresh, like it was made just for us, and there was enough variety that one could easily avoid that marshmallow-yam casserole. Ahem.

But now it's "Black Friday," which reminds me of a Steely Dan song while it reminds everyone else of Christmas shopping. The Library is open today, Black Friday or not, so I'm working and thinking about this amazing coconut cake that's sitting in the lunchroom (right next to my office), courtesy of Veronica Schwartz, Head of our Youth Services Department. I'm realizing that I ate several helpings of turkey yesterday, delicious cornbread stuffing, chicken piccata, two pieces of light-as-a-feather cornbread, carrots in a yummy walnut sauce, and...any number of desserts. Whew. Thank God I was eating my Thanksgiving dinner in Illinois and not in New York City, where many restaurants (those with 15 or more locations nationwide) have to post the calorie count for every food item. If I knew there were - what? - 7 or 8 zillion calories in that slice of Italian cream cake, would I have eaten it?

The New York City Department of Health's initiative has generated much discussion, especially in the online world, where pretty much everything is dissected and chewed over many, many times. How do you feel about it? On the one hand, I think it's a great idea. In this article from the New York Post, I discovered that the average onion has 35 calories: the Bloomin' Onion at Outback Steakhouse has 2,275 calories. Ouch. A Chipotle Grilled Chicken Burrito - which sounds like a low-cal number, right? - weighs in at 1,179 calories. And who's going to eat a burrito without some chips? and salsa? and maybe some refried beans and rice...Ouch!

Of course, a lot of calorie and nutritional information is freely available on the Internet, if you're brave enough to look. I'm a big fan of Caesar salads. I'm a big fan of not cooking at lunchtime, but I recently discovered the yummy Caesar salad at a nearby takeout place has almost 1,000 calories, and that's not including the side of flatbread and the oatmeal raisin cookie I feel obligated to buy. If you want to open that Pandora's box for yourself, check out The Daily Plate, which offers calorie counters plus the ability to create a food diary for yourself, a great way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. I also suffer from serious acid reflux problems. Looking up my diet soft drink of choice, I found out it has 50% more caffeine in it than other "versions" of the same soda! Curious? Go to Energy Fiend and look up your beverage.

Want to really spoil your holiday cheer? Type in the phrase "ten worst foods" in your favorite search engine, and be prepared to read 'em and weep. Or, follow this link to read a list of the 20 worst foods in America, courtesy of the Today Show.

Better yet - want to watch your waistline without the scare tactics? Come to the Library and fill up on diet, nutrition and exercise books and DVDs! Use the one-click searches to get started. After all, if you watch what you eat and drink most of the time, you'll never notice that little splurge on some Italian cream cake...right?

Fitness/exercise DVDs
Nutrition - books, audiobooks and DVDs
Low-fat diets
Food habits - books on portion control, better eating habits, etc.


  1. edit your writing; you're not talking on the phone to someone you know well

  2. Interesting comment, anonymous - care to elaborate? Blogs are intended to be chatty, fun, and informal -- and by the way, I hate talking on the phone! But if there's something you'd like to see in the blog, please be specific with your comments. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for the link to The Daily Plate! I was unfamiliar with that site, it looks very useful, and I've bookmarked it.

    I plan to check out Energy Fiend, too.

  4. Thanks for posting the link for the 20 worst foods in America! It was really fascinating to look at all the foods- and is it wrong that afterwards I really wanted a cheeseburger?

    BTW I like the informality of the blog.

  5. I too, enjoy your blog. I look forward to each new installment. Thanks for all you do.


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