Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Don't get Fooled by Salads

One of my patients ate out the other night and had the meal in the picture.

The meal is called, "Grilled Shrimp and Citrus Salad" and the menu describes it as,

"Mixed greens with oranges, grilled peppers and onions, Feta cheese and spiced walnuts in a spiced honey citrus vinaigrette. Topped with 2 grilled lemon pepper shrimp skewers"
Sounds healthy right?

My patient sure thought so, but she wanted to find out how many calories were in it, so she emailed the contact information on the restaurant's website.

A registered dietitian whose email signature's title was "Corporate Dietitian" wrote back and told her that the salad that sounded so healthy contained 641 Calories and an almost unbelievable 47 grams of fat. Now she didn't provide the breakdown of whether or not the fat was saturated, unsaturated or trans but it accounted for an astronomical 66% of the total calories of the meal.

Morals of this story:
  1. If you aren't sure of the Calorie count of a food item served at a major restaurant you can always email them and ask.
  2. The word "salad" does automatically mean a meal is healthy or low calorie.
  3. Don't order the Kelsey's Citrus Salad with Shrimp Skewers unless you really, really love it.
  4. Be leery of dietitians who identify themselves as "corporate" rather than "registered" (though I do commend her for her honesty as to where her allegiance lies and I'm sure that some who run with the "corporate" title don't sell out their nutritional education).

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  1. RuddCenter3:11 pm

    This is another example of the need for menu labeling laws, such as the one that goes into effect in New York City in July. In doing research on the calories in common fast food items, I was most struck by the high calories in salad dressings. Often the salads can be relatively healthy when you do not order fried or "crispy" chicken and order a low-calorie dressing. We'd love to hear your thoughts on our post on the need for menu labeling.

  2. kristy11:42 pm

    I am not surprised about the 47g considering they generally dump WAY more dressing (containing oil) than necessary on salads at restaurants; plus the cheese, nuts and possibly more oil as a coating on the shrimp. It only takes three tablespoons of oil to add up to 45g of fat. Always best to ask for dressing on the side. Many chain restaurants post the nutrition information of their menu items on their websites, so that is something to check before going to eat. However, I could not find nutrition info on Kelsey's website.

    Just to note, there are many different titles for dietitians - examples - clinical dietitian, community dietitian, administrative dietitian, public health dietitian, corporate dietitian. They are ALL Registered Dietitians because the term “dietitian” is protected by law in Canada. The education of Dietitians is very broad and it lends itself to working in a variety of different roles – many of which are outside of patient counselling. Dietitians working in the corporate world are not “selling out” their education, but rather using their education to provide expertise to the company in the area of nutritional science. Their job may involve nutrition labelling / regulatory affairs, nutrition analysis of food products, quality assurance or communications. It is simply using the education in a different way. Similarly, a physician may work in non-clinical roles such working for a manufacturer of medical equipment, as a consultant to a pharmaceutical company, or in the area of biotechnology.