You know a lot about staying healthy, right? You're supposed to watch saturated fat and eat lots of vegetables--that's why you usually pick up a take-out salad for lunch and dinner (even when the kids get burgers). But you're not obsessed with the scale like some women you know. You brush your teeth and you last flossed, oh, maybe 2 weeks ago. You exercise but avoid lifting so you don't bulk up like those female gym rats lurking around the free weights. The tummy pains you got last week? Must have been gas--nothing more serious. And, hey, you'd like to get 8 hours of sleep, but the days are short, and it's hard to get everything done.
Sound familiar? Then you may be making some of the dumbest health mistakes a woman can make. Here, experts tell how never to be trapped by them again.
1. You Always Order a Salad
"The word 'salad' makes people think they are eating something healthy," says Brie Turner-McGrievy, RD, clinical research coordinator for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
(PCRM) in Washington, DC. "But the truth is, a lot of take-out and restaurant salads are basically a burger in a bowl."
Last year, when Turner-McGrievy analyzed nutritional information for 34 salads available at the nation's largest fast-food and sandwich chains, only two--the Au Bon Pain Garden Salad with fat-free raspberry vinaigrette and the Subway Veggie Delite with fat-free Italian dressing and no cheese--got an "outstanding" rating for being high in fiber and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories, according to federal nutritional guidelines.
Turner-McGrievy's "burger in a bowl" analogy is no exaggeration; the nutritional facts support it. McDonald's Crispy Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad with Newman's Own Ranch Dressing has more calories, fat, and saturated fat than a Big Mac--640 calories and 49 g of fat versus 600 calories and 33 g of fat. Other fast-food salads are almost as dismal. Get the skinny on all 34 salads tested in the PCRM salad analysis.
"Only about 10 percent of your diet should come from saturated fat. For a woman who is eating 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day, these salads contain all the saturated fat she should eat in a whole day," says the dietitian.
And many fast-food salads contain very little fiber (government guidelines say most women should have 25 to 35 g a day). "Most have no beans and very few vegetables," says Turner-McGrievy. "So if you have one of these salads for lunch, your other meals are going to have to be bran cereal to make up for the lack of fiber."
Taco Bell's Salad with Salsa was the clear winner in the fiber category, with 13 g. But with 42 g of fat and most of the sodium you should have in one day (1,670 mg--the total recommended daily intake is 2,400 mg), it was rated unacceptable in the PCRM survey.
Here's how you can have your salad and eat it, too: If you order it without the taco shell, you lower your fat intake from 51 to 21 g, and the sodium drops to 1,400 mg.
Don't scratch take-out salad off your menu; just apply a few commonsense rules before you order. For instance, avoid high-fat add-ons such as sour cream, extra cheese, croutons, bacon bits, and high-fat dressings, including Caesar and ranch. Opt for salads that aren't just a fiber-free mound of iceberg lettuce dotted with a few carrot and red cabbage shavings. Ask for low-calorie and fat-free dressing.
And plan ahead. Most fast-food chains supply online nutritional information for all their fare, so you can scout out the best salads before you leave for lunch.
Reprint from Prevention Magazine