The Cold, Hard (Caloric) Facts: The Food Diaries

This week’s diarist wants to slim down for her wedding, but her eating indulgences during a weekend getaway are adding up. Our nutritionist breaks down the damage in calories, and offers tips for cutting back.

Burger King’s TenderCrisp fried chicken sandwich has over 600 calories.

The Stats
Gender: Female.
Age: 25.
Height: Five-foot-three.
Weight: 190 (give or take).
Location: Alexandria.
Profession: Development coordinator.
Self-described activity level: “I like to be active and love the gym. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find one I like in the area and have a hard time getting to my apartment’s workout room (if you can call it that) after working a long day, commuting home, and making dinner. I play softball once or twice a week and walk 1.2 miles round trip to and from work each day. I also do some Wii activities occasionally—Wii Fit, Zumba, and dance party. I always hope to do and be better with my eating and working out habits. I would like to kick it up a little bit now because I really want to look and feel better. While I haven’t had great success losing weight in the past, I’m looking to lose a few pounds before my October wedding.”

Day One
Morning: After a few days of feeling under the weather, I wake up at 6 and finally get out of bed around 6:30. I eat a small breakfast of a cup of coffee—with cream and two Sweet’N Low packets—and a Nutri-Grain bar. I shower quickly, get dressed, and run off to catch the morning shuttle. After a short ride on the Metro, I walk my .6 miles to work and begin a short day before the long Fourth of July weekend.
Afternoon: A coworker and I take a quick walk to Madhatter on Connecticut Avenue to have lunch. We both ordered the Asian Crispy Chicken salad (with water to drink). It was amazing! I haven’t had such a great salad in a long time.
2:00 PM: A few co-workers and I leave after a short work day and head for some early Fourth of July celebratory drinks at Café Saint-Ex on 14th Street. I have two Naughty Shirley Temples, which are amazing, before heading home.
Evening: Home—need something to cool off. How about a Popsicle? It’s such a great thing to have in the fridge. My fiancé arrives home around 6 and we each have a personal pizza (rather small) and some Mrs. T’s perogies (boiled). I also had a 16-ounce Pepsi as a treat. I normally don’t have soda, it’s only if it’s a holiday or I am enjoying an adult beverage occasionally.
Late: I have a snack at about 8:30—another Popsicle. Off to bed in a bit.

Day Two
Morning: We’re up pretty early this Saturday, around 8 AM, to pack up and get ready to head out to the Richardsville, Virginia, area for the weekend. At about 8:30 I have an egg and slice of ham on ½ an English muffin. I also make an extra piece of toast to sop up the over easy-egg leftovers.
Afternoon: We stop at Burger King where I have a chicken sandwich before continuing on to the Rappahannock River Campground where we’ll be camping for the night after a day of tubing with friends. We have a drink before we push off (I have just a sip), then a few more while on the water. In total, I probably have 1½ 17-ounce rum and Cokes. The day is so fun—relaxing in a tube but also swimming and pushing ourselves through the rocky areas. And hey, it was a great workout!
Evening: We get back from tubing sometime after 7 and have a nice dinner of grilled bison steak, potato salad, and another rum and Coke. We sit by the fire and unwind before hitting the hay.

Day Three
Morning: Wake up pretty early after a night of thunder and rain. Have a breakfast of a flat cinnamon-raisin bagel with light cream cheese (both the light brand and light on the cream cheese), a peach, and a hamburger. After breakfast we pack up and head to King’s Dominion for a fun filled day of roller coasters.
Afternoon: After a few rides and some hunger pains, we stop for lunch. My fiancé and I ordered a Sprite and nachos to share. We continue to ride long into the evening but stop for more Sprite to refresh.
Evening: On the way home, we stop at Denny’s for dinner. I have a milkshake, a pulled barbecue chicken sandwich, fries, and coleslaw. The milkshake hit the spot after a long hot day in the sun!

Day Four
Morning: Happy Fourth of July morning! My fiancé makes me homemade French toast for breakfast, and we have a nice quiet morning out on the patio. We do a little cleaning before getting ready to hang out with some friends for the day.
A fternoon: We eat a late lunch of salmon and salad, and spend the day lounging around after a crazy weekend of go-go-go.
Very late: At about 9:15 we reach our apartment and have Papa John’s for dinner (two slices for me).

Day Five
Morning: Back to the grind today. My breakfast, at about 7 AM, is coffee and two slices of toast with butter and jelly. After getting ready and watching a little morning TV, I head off for my 45 minute commute.
Afternoon: The day seems to go by pretty quickly. Around 1, I have my lunch of leftover pizza, a yogurt, and a lunch-size bag of Cheetos. Later in the day I have a granola bar for a snack.
Evening: For dinner at 7, I make pasta with meatballs and Alfredo sauce. The rest of the evening is for relaxing and working on wedding details.

From the Expert
Registered dietician Erin Huddy, owner of the Nutrition Connection, says: “Summer is in full swing, and with it come barbeque gatherings, vacations, and road trips—fun activities that can wreak havoc on your plans to follow a healthy-nutrition plan.

“The soon-to-be bride gives us a perfect example of some of the eating challenges we all face during festive times. Many of the convenient foods we turn to when our schedules are busy—snack bars, bagels, soft drinks, and other pre-packaged foods—are packed with sugar and simple carbohydrates. Because these foods cause a sudden spike in blood sugar followed by a ‘sugar crash,’ we’re left feeling sapped of energy and hungry more frequently. These types of foods also tend to be more easily stored as fat.

“Instead of relying on prepackaged convenience, try to pack fruit and vegetables in snackable slices, put together a healthy trail mix, make your own low-sugar oatmeal bars, and for hydration, keep a refillable water bottle with cold water and a splash
of lemon. Including whole grains, fruits and vegetables in place of sugary processed foods will leave you not only thinner, but more energized and satiated throughout the day.

“While traveling, many of us stop at fast food places for our meals. Although this is not ideal, if we do our research ahead of time and have a plan of action, we can come away from our vacations with less dietary damage. Luckily, most restaurants post their nutrition information online or provide nutrition information pamphlets at the restaurant. Always check before you buy—you may be shocked to see the nutrition information on many of the foods out there. Also, steer clear of menu items that include descriptions such as battered, breaded, buttered, cheesy, creamy, crispy, crunchy, crusted, fried, glazed, gooey, and smothered. Instead, stick to items containing the words roasted, baked broiled, seared, grilled, sautéed, seasoned, and steamed.

“This week’s diarist seems to have made a good choice by selecting a chicken sandwich from Burger King, so long as it was grilled and not fried. The proof’s in the numbers: Burger King’s TenderGrill chicken sandwich has 470 calories, while the TenderCrisp (fried) chicken sandwich has 800. If you really want to cut calories, remove the mayo and half the bun, and your left with a very manageable 270 calories.

“Our bride-to-be mentions another popular restaurant, Denny’s, which is often convenient during travel. The pulled barbeque sandwich from Denny’s is a fair choice at around 650 calories, but the fries, coleslaw, and milkshake turn a reasonable meal into a 1,940 calorie splurge! This is equal to, if not more, than what the average person should have in one day and would require a person to walk for 557 minutes, jog for 230 minutes, or bike for 307 minutes to burn off those calories . . . phew!

“Drinking an alcoholic beverage or two is common at social gatherings. Unfortunately, what may seem like a harmless mixed drink could be adding a ton of hidden calories to your day. The average 12-ounce rum-and-Coke provides at least 350 calories, a margarita 550 calories, and a Piña Colada close to 600 calories. The calories are so high because of the alcohol and sugar content. One and a half ounces, or a shot of alcohol, contains 100 calories alone, and many mixed drinks have two times that amount of liquor, in addition to one or more sugary soft drinks, juices, or syrups as a mixer.

“So how do you enjoy yourself without the calories creeping up on you? Try some alternative drinks and watch your serving closely. Some alternatives include: one ounce of rum in five ounces of diet Coke (65 calories), a 12-ounce Guinness (126 calories), a four-ounce pour of Chardonnay (90 calories), or one ounce of vodka in five ounces of Diet soda (65 calories).

“The takeaway message here is do your homework and plan ahead. Be mindful of what you’re putting into your body and how much work it will take you to undo the damage that a chocolate milkshake or rum-and-Coke will cause. Looking good for your wedding day or anther special event is very important, but so is looking and feeling good every day. Practice mindful eating and you will successfully achieve this goal!”

Are you brave enough to keep a food diary? We dare you. E-mail with your contact information, where you live, and a paragraph or two describing why you'd make a good diarist. 

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