#278 Beware the Bar
Tell a friend

I go from stool to stool in singles bars hoping to get lucky,
but there's never any gum under any of them.

Emo Phillips

6 Survival Tips for Eating in Bars

By Joe Wilkes

Bar PartyMost of us think of fast food, office doughnuts, or that tub of ice cream in the freezer when we think of diet traps. But what about those unplanned little grazings that happen when we wander out to happy hour with colleagues after work, hit the nightclubs for somebody's birthday on the weekend, or gather with friends at the local sports bar to watch the playoff game on Sunday afternoon? Somebody passes around a bucket of wings, a plate of calamari, or a couple of orders of fries and onion rings, and you decide you're just going to try one of these, one of those, and you surely can't refuse that one at the happy hour price—it's like throwing money away! Emboldened by judgment-loosening alcoholic beverages (not to mention highly caloric), a whole diet plan can be shredded in one evening. But none of us wants to stay home with our celery sticks and cabbage soup while our friends and coworkers are out on the town. So let's take a look at some of the worst offenders offered up at our favorite watering holes and some alternatives we can order instead.

  1. Buffalo WingsBuffalo wings. These little deadlies took off like crazy in the 90s and now they, or some variation, are available at almost every bar in town. Sold by the pound, by the half-dozen, or by the wing, they are delicious, but watch out—these babies can give you a buffalo butt. The basic recipe for the classic Buffalo wing is to deep-fry separated wing sections and then toss them in a combination of butter and hot sauce. Some places have added breading to the mix to better absorb the fat and sauce, and most serve them with celery and carrot sticks with a healthy serving of full-fat ranch or blue cheese dressing. Why have they become so popular? Well, of course, they taste great, but more than that, think about the bar's strategy. What are they in the business of? Serving drinks. And here's where the wings become the perfect bar food. They're spicy—which makes you want to drink more. They're salty—which makes you want to drink more. They're fatty—which makes you feel the effects of the alcohol less . . . and makes you want to drink more. It's a perfect storm of high-calorie temptation to make you ingest more high-calorie drinks.

    I initially went to the Hooters Web site to get nutritional info for their wings, and finding none, went to their FAQ, where I was informed they couldn't possibly give out nutritional information for such a customizable dish. I found this to be the case at most of the popular chains. This reluctance to divulge didn't bode well for the dainty chicken wing. I finally found a third-party site reporting that a 10-piece chicken wing appetizer order at Ruby Tuesday had 910 calories and 66 grams of fat. Add the blue cheese dressing, and you can knock it up to 1,090 calories and 85 grams of fat. This seemed pretty typical. If you add variations like breading, or syrupy sauces like teriyaki or sweet-and-sour, you can bump up the calories even higher. It's safe to guess that for every wing you eat out of your table's wing bucket, you're getting around 100 calories and 7 grams of fat. Chicken wings are mostly skin, so they're pretty much the least healthy part of the chicken you can eat. And chicken "fingers" or "nuggets" aren't much better. Some grind up the skin into the meat, which ends up being the base for the nugget, and even the all-breast-meat versions have tons of fat from the breading.

    Instead: Just treat yourself to one or two wings or fingers from the bucket. But then fill up on the accompanying celery and carrot sticks (however, skip the ranch and blue cheese; ask if there's salsa or marinara sauce). You can ask your waiter and barkeep for extra sticks, too, so your friends don't think you're a celery hog.


  2. French FriesFrench fries. Fries are definitely high on the bar's salty-fatty scale. But they're another perfect bar food. Loved by vegetarians and carnivores alike. Usually the cheapest appetizer on the menu and great finger food for passing around. But a basket of fries, depending on how they're prepared, can have 500 to 1,000 calories, at least half of which come from fat. Not to mention the sodium content, and even the accompanying ketchup which is usually full of high-fructose corn syrup. And, you can also get creative by adding cheese, chili, bacon, or anything else to the fries. At the Outback Steakhouse, you can order the Aussie Cheese Fries, whose one-pound, 12-ounce serving contains 2,900 calories and 182 grams of fat. Outback—it's Australian for heart attack! Hopefully, this dish is meant to be shared, but even an individual 10-ounce cheese fries order at Johnnie Rockets clocks in at 760 calories with 43 grams of fat.

    Instead: Skip the toppings. Fries, at heart, are just potatoes, which, while a bit carby, aren't unhealthy. If you have an option between steak fries and shoestring/thin-cut fries, go with the steak fries. The potato-to-grease ratio is much higher, so essentially each steak fry absorbs less fat than the shoestring/thin-cut variety. Also, if you're at an Irish or British pub, you could use no-calorie vinegar as your condiment of choice instead of HFCS-laden ketchup.


  3. NachosNachos. This "snack" plate is a fiesta of fat and calories—a bed of deep-fried tortilla chips, loaded with full-fat melted cheese and sour cream. At least there's some salsa, which is low in calories; refried beans, which give you a little fiber with your fat; and some heart-healthy guacamole. But don't let those ingredients justify the indulgence—nachos can often be the most caloric item on the menu. One order of Classic Nachos at Chili's contains 1,570 calories and 115 grams of fat (58 grams of which are saturated). Even if you share this pile of fatty goodness with a friend, you've still inhaled almost your entire day's recommended allowance of fat, and you haven't even ordered dinner. Olé!

    Instead: Let your fork be your friend. Instead of using the tortilla chips as your cheese delivery system, use a fork and pick at the healthier things on the nacho plate—the salsa, the guacamole, the jalapeños, the olives, the beans, or the lean chicken or steak (if the nachos come with that). I also recommend sitting/standing far away from the nachos. It'll be less tempting to eat them absentmindedly. If you've only ordered chips and salsa, try keeping your salsa-to-chip ratio high. The salsa's low-calorie and nutritious, the chip is fattening and virtually nutrition free. So load up a chip with healthy salsa. Better to get refills on the salsa than the chips.


  4. Deep FryerDeep-fried delicacies. This year, a top seller at state and county fairs is deep-fried Coke. Clearly, as a society, we have arrived at a point where we are able and willing to deep-fry pretty much anything. From classics like onion rings and calamari to new innovations like deep-fried jalapeño rings, anything that can be dipped in batter and dropped into a vat of sizzling oil will be served at your local bar. But keep in mind that while these munchies may have begun their lives as vegetables and seafood, they are not for the health-conscious. A large raw onion has 60 calories and no fat; a typical serving of onion rings has 500 calories and 34 grams of fat. Three ounces of squid contain 78 calories with one gram of fat; an order of calamari fritti at the Macaroni Grill has 1,210 calories with 78 grams of fat (13 of which are saturated). Clearly the lesson is to stay away from the deep fryer.

    Instead: The bright side of a deep-fried menu is that a deep fryer is usually a sign of a working kitchen—one that might have a refrigerator. If so, you could order an alternate appetizer like shrimp cocktail—a 10-shrimp serving only runs you 228 calories with 4 grams of fat. Or order a salad with dressing on the side. And if you feel bad that you're not joining the crowd at the saturated fat trough, see if you can get a buddy to go halfsies with you on a healthy menu item like a salad. Then you can bond with your friend instead of having plaque bond with your artery walls.


  5. SushiSushi. If your alcohol-themed gathering is at a Japanese-themed or sushi bar, you may have hit diet heaven. Sake is only 39 calories an ounce, comparable to wine, and sushi—generally a roll of fish, rice, and seaweed—is actually low-calorie, low-fat, and healthy! Score! Be careful though, not all sushi is created equal. Some rolls that contain spicy mayonnaise sauces or tempura batter can rack up the calories big time. For example, a plain tuna roll is about 184 calories with 2 grams of fat. A spicy tuna roll is 290 calories with 11 grams of fat; and a tuna tempura roll is 508 calories with 21 grams of fat. Of course, with true Yankee ingenuity, Americans have figured out ways to incorporate all manner of ingredients into sushi. I swear to you, I've seen cheeseburger and pizza sushi on menus. Watch out for the ones that will turn your heart-healthy snack into a gut bomb—like the salmon-cream-cheese roll which has 517 calories with 20 grams of fat. Traditional Japanese appetizers like tempura can also be as fattening as onion rings. Three pieces of vegetable tempura run about 320 calories with 18 grams of fat.

    Instead: Stick to sushi made without sauces, tempura, or other caloric ingredients. If you really want to cut calories (and carbs), order sashimi, or sushi without rice. A typical serving of tuna sashimi is less than 40 calories and 3 grams of fat. Also, look for other low-calorie items on the menu like miso soup (76 calories) or edamame (100 calories for half a cup).


  6. Peanuts, Pretzels, ChipsPeanuts, pretzels, popcorn, and mixes. The diviest bar in town might not have a menu from the kitchen, but they'll probably have a barrel of some crunchy treat which will be served in small refillable bowls—gratis. Again, this isn't just an act of incredible generosity by the bartender, it's motivation for you to get full of salt and fat so you can order more drinks, early and often. Peanuts are a good source of protein, but they have about 164 calories an ounce (about 30 peanuts) and 14 grams of fat. Popcorn is 140 calories an ounce (about 2-1/2 cups) with 8 grams of fat. Pretzels are only 107 calories an ounce (about five pretzels), with almost no fat, but you also get a full 20 percent of your sodium RDA in that ounce. An ounce of Chex mix (about 2/3 cup) is 120 calories with 5 grams of fat. And Asian snack mix (largely seasoned rice crackers) is 142 calories an ounce (about a cup) with 7 grams of fat.

    Instead. You can pretty well name your poison on this one. They're all around the same calorie count per ounce. I've yet to find the bar where the bartender dished out a healthy alternative from the bottomless snack bucket behind the bar. The main thing to remember is that the bowl is indeed bottomless, and the bartender will keep filling the bowl, so you keep filling your glass. And keep in mind Ben Stiller's speech from Along Came Polly, where his risk assessor character explains to Jennifer Aniston the number of people in the bar who went to the bathroom, didn't wash their hands, and then plunged those dirty hands into the communal nut bowl. The nice thing about joints like this is that they're not going to give you a dirty look if you pull a P90X® Peak Performance Protein Bar out of your purse. Also, if you plan on getting your nutritional sustenance from a bartender in the evening, it might be wise to pop a couple of ActiVit® multivitamins in the morning. Bottoms up!


Related Articles
"Wine or Beer: Which is Better for You?"
"Fast Food Facts"
"More Food Substitutions for Faster Slimming Results"
"9 Nutrition Myths Exposed"

Joe Wilkes If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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7 Foods with Healing Power

By Linda York

Spending time on my grandparents' farm taught me the connection between fresh food and good health at an early age. In addition, my grandmother's pantry was our pharmacy and, over the years, many of the things I was taught by Grandma have been backed by "science." Here are seven fresh and natural foods with the potential power to heal you physically and mentally.

The Magnificent 7

  1. BlueberriesBlueberries. These nutrient-packed berries can help bruises disappear. They are a rich source of flavonoids and a good source of vitamin C, which together improve blood circulation (thus reducing swelling) and help form collagen, the tissue that holds skin together.

  2. Lemons. Squeeze two whole lemons into your tea, seltzer, and other beverages or on salads and other food to get your daily requirement of vitamin C. This major antioxidant not only fights heart disease and boosts immunity but it also helps form the collagen we need to heal tendons, ligaments, bones, and blood vessels.

  3. GarlicGarlic. Two garlic cloves a day may keep what Grandpa called "hardening of the arteries" away. We now call it arteriosclerosis, but the garlic works just the same. In a German study recently presented at an American Heart Association conference in Washington, D.C., it was stated that taking two cloves of garlic a day reduces the formation of arterial plaque by up to 40 percent. And 42 other clinical trials have shown that garlic can improve cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure.

  4. Lettuce. If getting to sleep is a problem, a sedative you may not have known about is lettuce, which contains a sleep-inducing substance called lectucarium. Its effects have been compared to the sedative effects of opium, but without the accompanying excitement.

  5. ChocolateChocolate. Dark chocolate is packed with healthy nutrients, including flavonoids, that are part of a group of antioxidants known as polyphenols that decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation, reduces the risk of blood clots, increases blood flow in arteries, and may lower high blood pressure. In addition, most of us can agree that chocolate improves mood and pleasure. It does that by boosting serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. Plus, chocolate contains a number of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

  6. Apples. Give in to temptation when it comes to one of the earth's healthiest foods. They are a great source of fiber. They're also a source of the phytochemical quercetin—a compound widely recognized for its ability to fight heart disease and cancer. "Apples are one of the best sources of flavonoids—as long as you leave on the peel," Kristine Napier, RD, writes in Eat to Heal. "Their complement of phytochemicals helps them fight heart disease, stroke, cancer, infections, inflammation and colitis." Because of the combination of fiber and fructose, apples help maintain blood sugar levels, which is key in fighting that afternoon blood sugar low. In fact, a successful dieting tip is to crunch into an apple for your afternoon snack—you'll end up eating a lot less during dinner.

  7. AvocadosAvocados. This tropical fruit wasn't grown in the United States until the 1830s. It is rich in potassium, beta-carotene, and "good" fat—the same monounsaturated fat that's found in olive oil and has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Avocados are also a rich source of the essential fatty acid (EFA) omega-9 that helps promote hormone regulation, the transportation of fat through the body, and the breakup of cholesterol. Because avocados are higher in calories than other fruits—two-thirds of an avocado has about 150 calories—you might not want to eat the "alligator pear" at every meal, but you can increase the delicious quotient of your favorite sandwich by adding some slices or making it a fiesta by digging into some guacamole.

Related Articles
"The Whole Fruit and Nothing but the Fruit"
"6 Ways to Boost Your Antioxidant Levels"
"10 Simple Ways to Spruce Up Your Salad"
"Onions, Garlic, and Leeks: Our Stinky Friends!"

Linda York If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Cocktail Garnish IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. LimesWhat has more calories—a lemon or a lime? A lime has 20 calories and a lemon has 15 calories. The lime also has an extra gram of fiber, while the lemon has more vitamin C (40 percent of the RDA as opposed to 35 percent for the lime).

  2. How many olives does it take to make a gallon of olive oil? It takes forty pounds of olives to make one gallon of olive oil. Ninety percent of the world's olives are grown to produce olive oil. Olive trees are known for their longevity. They can live over 1,500 years. In fact, Plato's olive tree is still alive and well in Greece, but no longer producing fruit.

  3. CherriesShould you buy unripened cherries? Only if you like unripened cherries. Cherries are one of the few fruits that do not ripen any further after they're picked. So with cherries, it's good to try before you buy. Look for dark cherries with green stems. Usually, the darker the cherry, the sweeter the taste. Also, the darker cherries have more bioflavonoids.

  4. What is a martini garnished with a cocktail onion called? A Gibson. The original martini was made with gin and dry vermouth and contained more of those ingredients. But as years passed, the martini became drier, to the point that it now contains almost no vermouth at all. Vodka martinis have eclipsed gin martinis in popularity, as the relatively flavorless vodka mixes better with flavored mixers and liqueurs that are popular on today's martini menus.

  5. OrangesWhat percentage of oranges are sold as whole fruit? Only 20 percent of oranges are sold intact. Most are used for juice. One whole orange provides 130 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. It also contains calcium, potassium, thiamin, niacin, and magnesium. The fruit is technically classified as a berry.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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