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A P90X® Restaurant Guide

By Denis Faye

You're working late at the office. It's time for dinner, but there's a problem. You're in the middle of your P90X program, and a big, greasy restaurant meal will throw your precision diet into complete chaos.

"But wait," you think, "aren't there restaurant meals listed in the back of the handy dandy P90X Nutrition Plan?" Yes, but you open it up and . . . d'oh! It's all fast food! You're with a client and you don't want to slum it!

P90X Nutrition Plan

Relax. You'll be fine. I'll talk you through this difficult situation.

The first thing you need to do is use common sense. Here's a quick list of things that'll help you survive any restaurant.

  1. Go for the chicken or fish.
  2. Avoid fried food.
  3. Unless it's veggies, salad, or fruit, skip the side dish.
  4. Pasta? Avoid cream sauces and just eat half your portion.
  5. No bread, except if you're having a sandwich. And get whole wheat.
  6. Ask for the salad dressing on the side and use it sparingly.

If you do this, you'll probably find yourself with a remarkably stripped-down meal that'll be easy to judge. Here's how to do that.

  1. Piece of meat = 2 protein portions.
  2. Side of veggies or salad = 1 veggie portion per side dish.
  3. Salad dressing can count as 1 condiment portion if you limit the serving to 2 tablespoons.
  4. If you ignored my extra side dish advice, count that as 1 carb portion.
  5. If there's any kind of sauce or marinade on your meat, add 1 condiment portion.
  6. Add 1 fat portion. Restaurants are notorious for sneaking fat and sodium into food. That's why it tastes so good.
  7. In the event that you are 100 percent, categorically certain that there's no hidden fat in your meal, skip step 5 and add 1 condiment portion, simply because I don't trust those restaurant guys. I'm certain they snuck something in there. Trust me. I'm paranoid so that you don't have to be.

So, for example, let's take Denny's Grilled Tilapia. Here's how they describe it on the menu: a mild, white fish filet seasoned and grilled, then placed on a bed of savory vegetable rice pilaf. Served with your choice of two sides and dinner bread.

We have our fish, so that's 2 protein portions. The vegetable rice pilaf is 1 carb portion and 1 veggie portion. The corn and tomato slices are 1 veggie portion each. Let's call that 1 carb portion and 1 veggie portion. There doesn't seem to be a lot of fat going on here, so we'll skip the fat portion. However, the pilaf is savory, which implies a sauce, so let's add 1 condiment portion.

Here's where we end up.

Fit Fare Grilled Tilapia with Rice Pilaf, Corn, and Tomato Slices Fit Fare Grilled Tilapia with Rice Pilaf, Corn, and Tomato Slices
3 veggie portions
2 protein portions
1 carb portion
1 condiment portion

  • Calories: 600
  • Protein: 58 g
  • Carbs: 66 g
  • Fat Total: 11 g

Simple, huh?

Of course, don't limit yourself to major chain restaurants. In fact, they usually cater to the lowest common denominator, so you'll probably have better luck finding healthier food at an independent restaurant specializing in fresh fare for more selective customers.

Unfortunately, I haven't spent much time in your neighborhood, so I don't really know much about your local joints. I do, however, have access to quite a bit of information about several national chains, thanks to the Internet. Here are a few examples to get you started. You'll note the nutrition information under the portion information. Many restaurants provide that on request. Don't be afraid to ask.


Grilled Salmon with Garlic and Herbs (no sides)
1 fat portion
2 protein portions
1 veggie portion
0.5 carb portion
2 condiment portions

  • Calories: 380
  • Protein: 40 g
  • Carbs: 1 g
  • Fat Total: 25 g
Fajita Pita Chicken Fajita Pita Chicken
1 fat portion
1 protein portion
1 veggie portion
0.5 carb portion

  • Calories: 455
  • Protein: 31 g
  • Carbs: 52 g
  • Fat Total: 13 g
Guiltless Black Bean Burger
1 protein portion
2 carb portions
2 condiment portions

  • Calories: 609
  • Protein: 37 g
  • Carbs: 91 g
  • Fat Total: 11 g
Guiltless Grilled Salmon
1 fat portion
2 protein portions
2 condiment portions

  • Calories: 395
  • Protein: 51 g
  • Carbs: 8 g
  • Fat Total: 20 g


Veggie-Cheese Omelet with Eggbeaters Veggie-Cheese Omelet with Eggbeaters (no sides)
1 fat portion
1 veggie portion
1.5 protein portions
1 condiment portion

  • Calories: 410
  • Protein: 39 g
  • Carbs: 11 g
  • Fat Total: 22 g
Grilled Chicken Salad Deluxe
1 veggie portion
1.5 protein portions
1 condiment portion

  • Calories: 290
  • Protein: 36 g
  • Carbs: 15 g
  • Fat Total: 10 g
Vegetable Beef Soup
1 veggie portion
0.5 protein portion
1 condiment portion

  • Calories: 140
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Carbs: 17 g
  • Fat Total: 5 g

Olive Garden

Pasta e Fagioli
0.5 protein portion
0.5 carb portion

  • Calories: 130
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Carbs: 19 g
  • Fat Total: 2.5 g
Linguine Alla Marinara Linguine Alla Marinara (dinner)
1 protein portion
1 carb portion
2 veggie portions
1 condiment portion

  • Calories: 430
  • Protein: 18 g
  • Carbs: 76 g
  • Fat Total: 6 g
Venetian Apricot Chicken (dinner)
2 protein portions
1 fruit portion
1 condiment portion

  • Calories: 360
  • Protein: 58 g
  • Carbs: 32 g
  • Fat Total: 4 g

Red Lobster

Garlic Grilled Jumbo Shrimp Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail
1 protein portion
1 condiment portion

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 19 g
  • Carbs: 9 g
  • Fat Total: 1 g
Manhattan Clam Chowder (Cup)
1 veggie portion

  • Calories: 80
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Carbs: 12 g
  • Fat Total: 1 g

Sources: Nutritional information from Chili's, Denny's, Olive Garden's, and Red Lobster's Web sites.

Related Articles
"7 Tips to Prevent a Diet Catastrophe"
"7 Tips for Fast Food Survival"
"8 Horrible, Disgusting, and Just Plain Scary Foods"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, May 18th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Denis Faye If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Nutrition 911, Part XIV: Energy Drinks – Do They Really Give You Wings?

By Steve Edwards

Energy drinks have taken over the soft drink market in a caffeine-fueled frenzy. By listening to the ad campaigns, you'd be sure that this has everything to do with your health. Now instead of leaving the convenience store with a gut bomb, you can grab a Monster can of Adrenaline that promises to Redline your performance until you're partying like a Rockstar. But do energy drinks really give you wings? Or are you more likely to experience a fleeting glimpse of euphoria, only to come crashing down like Icarus? This week, we take a deeper look at energy drinks, 911 style.

"Energy" Drink

Since Red Bull entered the U.S. market in 1997, energy drinks have been chipping away at the soft drink and bottled water companies' stranglehold. According to an article in The New York Times, energy drinks have now surpassed bottled water as the fastest growing category of beverages. This isn't to say that they're hurting the soda companies, because pretty much everyone now makes an energy drink, from Hansen's to Steven Seagal. Despite a slew of drinks with far more provocative names such as Who's Your Daddy?®, Cocaine™, Jones Whoopass™, and Beaver Buzz™, the industry leader is still Red Bull, with sales over $3 billion last year.

The where and why?

Energy drinks have been around for decades, particularly in Asia and mainly in Japan. They weren't soft drinks like they are today. Instead, they were small vials of liquid promising to increase performance. These vials were usually filled with caffeine, many herbs containing caffeine, and some vitamins. Their target audience was businessmen, to aid their long work schedules.

Red Bull took its name and certain ingredients from a Thai supplement. It was watered down and sugar was added so that it could be consumed as a soft drink, targeting the under-30 crowd. And voilà, a new market was formed. Pretty much everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. The more consumer-friendly varieties tend to be larger and resemble soft drinks, but there are still some aimed at more "sports-specific" audiences like bodybuilders and ravers. These will often come in a smaller package resembling the vials that you get overseas, which are probably more suitable for those who want to feel as though they're doing something illegal.

The what?

GuaranaSo what's in the stuff that makes it so special and, even more importantly, is it special? The ingredients vary, but there is one constant: caffeine. No matter what any energy drink professes, its secret ingredient is caffeine. Many contain various forms of caffeine like guarana, yerba maté, and tea, but caffeine is the business they're in. Everything else is a side dish.

As an example, let's take a closer look at Red Bull's active ingredients.

  • Sucrose and glucose. Like most soft drinks, the number one ingredient by far is sugar (check out "6 Foods with Hidden Sugar" in the Related Articles section below). This is where all of the calories in a Red Bull come from. Sugar provides an instant energy rush, but its effects are anything but energizing after only a few minutes. A study conducted at the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom proved exactly the opposite of this instant energy-rush effect. The study showed that a high-sugar and low-caffeine energy drink would promote sleepiness, not energy.

    "Energy drinks are a misnomer," reported Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, to HealthDay News. "Sure, they provide energy in the form of calories, usually from some form of a simple sugar, but simple sugars are digested, absorbed, and metabolized very quickly, so the energy they contain doesn't last long."

    Sugar, however, does speed the other ingredients into your system quicker. That's the point. Let's have a look at them to see what they do.

  • Sodium citrate. A food additive or preservative, usually added because of its tart flavor. But it's also alkaline and inhibits blood clotting. Because it's an effective buffering agent, it may help you utilize other nutrients better. A British study in 2003 also showed that it improved running times. However, in this study, the amount used was 37 grams. Since a Red Bull's only measurable ingredient is 27 grams of sugar (not counting the water), it's unlikely that the amount of sodium citrate will add any noticeable velocity to your wing speed.

  • BullTaurine. Originally came from bull bile, which is where Red Bull got its name. Now it's synthesized, and of all the ingredients in a Red Bull, it's the least understood. While it's associated with many benefits—and some dangers—virtually nothing is proven other than it is essential for your cat's health. In the energy drink world, some studies showing that it could reduce muscle fatigue are the most promising. But studies have concluded that it is not an energy enhancer.

  • Glucuronolactone. A naturally occurring chemical compound produced by glucose metabolism in the liver. Because it was once rumored (now disproved) to be linked with brain tumors during the Vietnam era, it was not a popular ingredient, until Red Bull used it because of its reputation for improving memory retention and concentration. Years later, there is still no conclusive proof, but it's become a popular ingredient in energy drinks across the board.

  • Caffeine. Now here's the business. Caffeine is a plant alkaloid found in over 60 species of plants, including guarana, kola nut, maté, tea, and, of course, coffee. Over 19,000 studies have been done on caffeine and most of them have been positive—the truly dangerous conclusions drawn by some studies have yet to be proven. The upside is so well known that there's no need to go into it. Caffeine is now arguably more popular than ever, and it's estimated that 90 percent of American adults consume it in some form. But this is nothing new; it's been used as a stimulant for as long as we've been recording history (and perhaps it's even the cause of us recording history).

    InsomniaCaffeine is not without its downside. Too much can make you jittery, anxious, unable to sleep, and even paranoid. It increases the production of stomach acid and can lead to an assortment of ailments. It's also addicting. And those who drink caffeine daily will suffer withdrawal symptoms if they can't get it. It has a toxic dosage, but it's so high that death by caffeine is highly unlikely, if not altogether impossible, unless it's consumed in its pure form. It is worth noting that over a certain amount (the average being around 400 milligrams, or 3 or 4 cups of coffee), caffeine intoxication may occur, which is an unpleasant condition that may include heart palpitations, irritability, anxiousness, and insomnia. We discussed this back in "Nutrition 911, Part XI: Coffee, Tea, and Caffeine" (see the Related Articles section below).

  • Inositol. I'm only going to go into this ingredient enough to show why many ingredients are added to supplements and drinks—only for show. As a supplement, inositol has some promising science behind it, but you would need to drink approximately 350 Red Bulls—enough to kill you from caffeine intoxication—to get the dosage used in the studies. It merely sounds important. Many "teas" and other convenience-store elixirs also tout important-sounding ingredients on the label, but they only contain trace amounts of those ingredients.

How much?

We refer to both the amount of ingredients and the cost of such ingredients. Energy drinks are expensive, and given the amount you get of each ingredient, you'd better really like the way they taste. If not, you're being ripped off.

Let's start with sugar. First off, sugar is not performance enhancing, so paying extra for it makes little sense. If you want sugar, buy something that tastes good. Many energy drinks are also made with artificial sweeteners, which are exactly the same low-grade additives that you can get in a can of Big K® diet soda for 25 cents.

Caffeine is cheap, as is coffee, and the average cup of coffee has three times more caffeine than the average energy drink. There are whole Web sites set up to help you do the math on this. One such site, Energyfiend.com, lists the milligrams of caffeine per ounce contained in each energy drink. The more commercial brands like Rockstar and Red Bull have far fewer milligrams than some of the more esoteric brands. But nothing beats a good old cup o' joe, except the 1-ounce caffeine shots.

CoffeeWhile the above-listed ingredients are the flagship ingredients of promotion, they aren't added in amounts that are effective. If you like the science behind taurine or inositol, you're better off buying it in bulk and then drinking plain coffee or tea.

So will they give me wings?

While there is little doubt you will gain a burst of energy from these drinks, it's unlikely to be sustained energy. Furthermore, the type of rush you get will be followed with a crash that will make you crave more. Because these have very little nutritional value, chances are that consuming more than a couple will leave you feeling edgy or downright irritable.

Energy drinks may have a place in your diet, but with proper fueling and regular exercise, you are unlikely to need them regularly. We tend to be low on energy because we make poor food choices, sleep too little, exercise too little, and stress too much. No drug can offset this behavior except during the short term. Energy drinks should be nothing but an emergency solution.

And when you want to party like a Rockstar?

Energy drinks are popularly used as cocktail mixers. Bars commonly promote such concoctions and energy drink companies often sponsor social gatherings. While mixing stimulants and depressants has been common among the partying sect for a long time, that doesn't make it safe. A 2006 study found a possible link between energy drinks and seizures, and research shows that combining heavy stimulants with heavy depressants could lead to heart failure. Remember that all rock stars don't make it through their partying years.

How to best enhance your energy

Marathon RunnerYour lifestyle has more to do with your energy level than anything else. Energy drinks should be reserved for the occasional pick-me-up or for sports performance. Consistent and intense exercise keeps your hormones working in balance and your body on an even keel. A proper diet with plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins, and good fatty acids that's supported by plenty of fresh water will give you long-term, sustained energy. Finally, getting ample sleep helps you recover from the stress and breakdown of everyday life. This is your real Pimp Juice if you want to keep your Diesel engine going Full Throttle all day, even if you've got to catch a Red Eye.

Next time, we'll wrap up the beverage portion of class by looking at everyone's favorite elixir, alcohol.

Sources: Lovett, R. (24 September 2005). "Coffee: The demon drink?". New Scientist (2518).; Escohotado, A. and Symington, K. (May 1999). A Brief History of Drugs: From the Stone Age to the Stoned Age. Park Street Press. ISBN 0-89281-826-3.; Warskulat, U., et al. (2004). "Taurine transporter knockout depletes muscle taurine levels and results in severe skeletal muscle impairment but leaves cardiac function uncompromised". FASEB J.: 03-0496fje. DOI:10.1096/fj.03-0496fje.; Oopik, V., et al. 2003; 37: 485-489.; Caffeine-related disorders. Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. Retrieved on 2006-08-14.; Kamijo Y., et al. (1999 Dec). "Severe rhabdomyolysis following massive ingestion of oolong tea: caffeine intoxication with coexisting hyponatremia". Veterinary and Human Toxicology 41 (6): 381-3. PMID 10592946.; Kerrigan S. and Lindsey T. (2005). "Fatal caffeine overdose: two case reports". Forensic Sci Int 153 (1): 67-9.; Chung S.S. and Iyadurai S.J.P. (2006). "New-onset seizures in adults: Possible association with consumption of popular energy drinks". Department of Neurology, Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ; Science Direct. Received 28 December 2006; revised 25 January 2007; accepted 26 January 2007; Available online 8 March 2007.

Related Articles
"6 Foods with Hidden Sugar"
"Nutrition 911, Part XIII: Juice, Juicing, and Fruit – The Differences"
"Nutrition 911, Part XII: Jumbo Juices and Crappuccinos"
"Nutrition 911, Part XI: Coffee, Tea, and Caffeine"
"Nutrition 911, Part VII: Sugar vs. Fat: Which Is Worse?"
"Nutrition 911, Part II: What to Eat"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, May 18th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Steve EdwardsIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can 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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Test Your Lazy Invention IQ!

By DeLane McDuffie

Creativity is a good thing. Human ingenuity has given us great inventions like the lightbulb, automobile, and telephone. But sometimes, those who don't use the power of creativity for the forces of good can cross over into the realm of slackers and just plain stupidity. Any able-bodied person should know better. We at the National Organization against Languid Action, Zzzzzz, and Yawning (NOLAZY) need your help. Fight the good fight, and match the lazy contraption with its function/characteristic—hopefully, they will inspire you to get up and move around.

  1. Extendable ForksExtendable forks – Eat like a giant. In case your 6-inch fork wasn't long enough to reach your plate that's about 4 inches away, you'll be happy to know that there are 25- and 30-inch forks out there that you can use to reach your neighbor's plate. We can understand why you need one to dig way down in those big ol' jars, but for everyday use, it just doesn't make much sense. You'll need a forklift to lift your fork. If the giant would've had a fork like this, he would've caught Jack before he slid down that beanstalk.

  2. Electric scissors – Cut through the bull. Yeah! You're big. You're strong. You're tired of moving your hands unnecessarily. Why not let a pair of cordless power scissors do the work for you? Now you can show those Sunday morning newspaper coupons who's boss! That old credit card's talking trash to you again? You know what to do.

  3. Packaged, peeled, hardboiled eggs – Grade-A laziness. I saw this in the grocery store one day and almost dropped my carton of eggs. Stunning! Removing the shell and boiling an egg aren't really hard to do. If this keeps up, soon baby chicks will be delivered to chickens, and they won't have to hatch them.

  4. Hawaii ChairThe Hawaii Chair – Twist into shape. This is real. I'm not making this up. Once upon a time, there was a chair that was supposed to keep you slim and trim by simulating the hula dance's twisting motion—all while you were sitting down! Go YouTube® the infomercial. I can't see how eating or even working at your desk could even be possible. It looks like a cross between a medieval torture device and a time machine. Also, anything that advises you to "take the 'work' out of your workout" is probably not going to get you ripped. As the infomercial says, "If you can sit, you can get fit."

  5. Motorized ice cream cone – Be cooler than your friends. Quite possibly the laziest invention in recorded human history, all a person has to do is stick out his or her tongue. It's official. Because your tongue has just been laid off from its job, you have managed to achieve zero muscle activity. Nice! You might as well be asleep. Some people think that electric toothbrushes are unnecessary, but at least they have a hygienic purpose. The purpose of a motorized ice cream cone? Hmm...I'll let you know when I figure one out.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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