“BIG BOLD FLAVOR,” says Chili’s Web site. “House-Baked Crust. Freshly Made 9-inch Pizza. Perfectly Sized Just For You.”
Each of Chili’s four new “freshly made” pizzas may look “perfectly sized” to some people. But only if they’re in the market for an entrée that has three-quarters of a day’s calories.
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Take the Southwestern Chicken Pizza. It’s “topped with chile-rubbed grilled chicken, chipotle pesto, cheddar, mozzarella, Monterey and pepper Jack, green & red bell peppers, red onion and house-made pico de gallo.”
Don’t blame the grilled chicken for the Southwestern’s 1,550 calories and 32 grams of saturated fat—more than any Pizza Hut Personal Pan or California Pizza Kitchen pizza. It’s like eating a Chili’s 10 oz. Classic Sirloin steak dinner (with Loaded Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli), with a 10 oz. Classic Sirloin on the side.
The Five Cheese, Taco, and Pepperoni Pizzas are in the same ballpark. Each is loaded with three to five different cheeses (like cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Pepper Jack), not just mozzarella.
And each comes on a thick, white-flour crust that accounts for 630 of the pizza’s calories. (It may be “house-baked,” but it looks like no one in the house knows how to make a decent crust.) Judging by the pizzas’ sodium (2,400 to 3,500 milligrams), the house does know how to wield a salt shaker, though.
“Perfectly sized just for you”? Only if you want to be a size XXL.
Tell Chili’s what you think about its Southwestern Chicken Pizza: (800) 983-4637.
Even if you could afford the calories in an individual pizza —if, say, you’re competing in a triathlon next week—your arteries would have to find storage space for the roughly 20 grams of saturated fat (a day’s worth) in a thin- or regular-crust pizza. That’s cheese for you. Make it 30 grams if you order your pie meat-heavy or deep-dish. In order to minimize the damage you could:
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Ask for less cheese. Chances are, you won’t notice the difference. You can also curb the saturated fat by skipping pizzas made with multiple cheeses. For example, at California Pizza Kitchen, a Traditional Cheese Pizza has 16 grams of saturated fat, while the Five-Cheese & Fresh Tomato hits 24 grams.
Choose vegetable, chicken, or seafood toppings. To curb calories, saturated fat, and (often) sodium, stick with veggie, chicken, or seafood toppings instead of fatty meats like bacon, ground beef, pepperoni, salami, sausage, or steak.
Meat mixtures are the worst. Take California Pizza Kitchen’s The Works (pepperoni and sausage) or The Meat Cravers (pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, ham, and salami). Each supplies roughly 1,350 calories, 25-30 grams of saturated fat, and more than 3,000 mg of sodium. Would you order three Quarter Pounders with Cheese for dinner? You might as well.
“Ladyfinger cookies soaked in espresso and coffee liqueur layered with Mascarpone, dusted with cocoa powder and served with chocolate shavings.” That’s how Maggiano’s Little Italy describes its Tiramisu.
And when it arrives at your table, you won’t think “big splurge.” It’s not a towering slice of cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory or a pizza-sized cookie from Uno Chicago Grill. Tiramisu looks like, well, a mini-splurge.
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That diminutive rectangle holds 830 calories and 28 grams of saturated fat (1½ days’ worth) plus 15 teaspoons of sugar. Gulp.
Who would guess that it’s about equal to a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza topped with a half cup of Häagen-Dazs Coffee ice cream? Or a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Munchkins dough-nut holes?
And we’re guessing you didn’t show up at Maggiano’s just for dessert. So those 830 calories—okay, 415 if you share your tiramisu with a friend—come after you’ve polished off your entrée (800 to 2,400 calories), which may have come after your appetizer (600 to 1,700 calories). Talk about higher math!
Despite its dainty-ish looks, tiramisu is never a light dessert. Even so, Maggiano’s version manages to top the tiramisus at other popular Italian chains like Romano’s Macaroni Grill (690 calories) and Olive Garden (510 calories).
It may be Maggiano’s Little Italy. But the menu makes for big patrons.
Tell Maggiano’s what you think about its Tiramisu: (800) 983-4637.
Why choose brown rice over white?
Researchers tracked nearly 200,000 men and women for 14 to 22 years. Those who ate at least 5 servings of white rice per week had a 17 percent higher risk of Type 2 diabetes than those who ate less than one serving a month. In contrast, people who ate at least two servings of brown rice a week had an 11 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes than those who ate less than one serving a month.
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A separate study found that among women who already had diabetes, those who ate the most bran (around 10 grams per day) had about a 35 percent lower risk of dying of heart disease than those who ate the least bran (1 gram per day). It didn’t matter if the bran came from whole grains or was added to meals as bran itself.
What to do: Switch from refined to whole grains. Brown rice may protect against diabetes because it has more fiber, vitamins, and magnesium and other minerals than white rice, and because it raises blood sugar less than white rice does. However, other whole grains, like bulgur and whole-grain pasta, raise blood sugar even less than brown rice.
Caution: In November 2012, Consumer Reports magazine reported “troubling” levels of inorganic arsenic in almost every rice-containing food it tested, including brown rice. Rice takes up arsenic from soil and water more readily than other grains do.
The less arsenic you ingest, the better. Consumer Reports recommends that adults eat no more than 1½ to 2 cups of cooked (brown or white) rice a week. (For arsenic levels by brand, see consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/11/arsenic-in-your-food/index.htm.)
You can remove about half the arsenic in your rice by rinsing it, cooking it in six parts water to one part rice until it reaches eating texture, then pouring off the extra water.
Sources: Arch. Intern. Med. 170: 961, 2010; Circulation 121: 2162, 2010; J. Environ. Monitor. 11: 41, 2009.
“Low vitamin B-12 status is very common in older people,” notes Martha Morris of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.
Vitamin B-12 is found in animal foods, including dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. But most people with low B-12 don’t run short because they lack those foods.
“Low B-12 status occurs because of how our digestive systems age,” says Morris. “Some people lose the ability to extract vitamin B-12 from food protein.”
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In about 30 percent of older people, the lining of the stomach starts to wither, so it doesn’t secrete enough gastric acid to release vitamin B-12 from food.
That’s why the Institute of Medicine recommends that anyone over age 50 get at least 2.4 micrograms of B-12 a day from a fortified food or supplement. Even without stomach acid, you can still absorb the crystalline form of B-12 they contain.
Roughly one out of five Americans aged 60 or older has low B-12 status. “These people don’t feel like they have anything wrong with them,” notes Morris. But they’re more likely to do poorly on tests of memory and mental ability.
“We found cognitive impairment was almost twice as common in people with low B-12 status,” she adds.
And in the Chicago Health and Aging Project and the Oxford Healthy Ageing Project in England, seniors who entered the studies with low B-12 status were more likely to show a drop in cognitive test scores six to ten years later.
“This association suggests that low B-12 status contributes to cognitive impairment in the elderly,” says Morris. She uses the word “suggests” because these types of studies can’t prove cause and effect.
So far, studies that have given people high doses of vitamin B-12 (often with other B vitamins) for up to six months haven’t found improved test scores. (And B vitamins don’t slow memory loss in people who already have Alzheimer’s disease.)
However, in the Women’s Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study, which tested high doses of B vitamins on 2,000 women aged 65 or older who were at high risk for heart disease, the vitamins seemed to help women who entered the trial with low B-vitamin intakes. Those women were less likely to decline on memory and other cognitive tests over five years if they got B vitamins than if they got a placebo.
But if too little B-12 is a problem, simply getting more from a multivitamin or breakfast cereal may not be the answer.
“Among people with low B-12 status, high folic acid status is strongly associated with cognitive impairment,” says Morris.
The folate that occurs naturally in food isn’t a problem. “The normal circulating form of folate—methylfolate—was not related to cognitive impairment at all,” says Morris. “Only unmetabolized folic acid was.”
Unmetabolized folic acid comes from vitamin supplements or from grain foods—breads, cereals, pasta, rice, and tortillas—that are made with “enriched” flour. In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration added folic acid to the other B vitamins and iron that companies are required to add to refined flour and white rice. The folic acid lowered rates of spina bifida and other neural tube birth defects by 26 percent.
But no one expected fortification to lead to unmetabolized folic acid.
“When the FDA decided to fortify the food supply with folic acid, scientists assumed that all the folic acid would be converted to natural folate on the way through the digestive tract,” says Morris.
“But we’re finding folic acid in body tissues. We found that a third of seniors have circulating unmetabolized folic acid.”
Older people with unmetabolized folic acid are more likely to take supplements and eat fortified foods, but that doesn’t completely explain why they have higher levels than others. Genetics may affect what happens to folic acid once it’s in your body.
But the link with cognitive decline in people with too little B-12 and too much folic acid is worrisome. “Something is going on in the brain with unmetabolized folic acid, and we don’t know what it is,” says Morris.
And that makes it tricky to get more B-12. “I can’t say take a multivitamin or fortified breakfast cereal because it would also give you a lot of folic acid,” she adds. “If you’re taking a multi, you’re getting a full day’s supply.” That’s 400 micrograms.
“Then you may be getting 100 micrograms from fortified grain foods. And if you eat certain breakfast cereals, you’ll get another 400 micrograms, so you’re getting more than two full days’ supply. You really have to read cereal boxes.”
To complicate matters, getting a blood test for vitamin B-12 may not tell you much. “The test is very insensitive,” says Morris.
A more sensitive test is for methyl-malonic acid, which goes up when you get too little B-12. (Levels over 210 mmol/L can mean low B-12 status.) But it’s more expensive.
Sources: Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 89: 693S, 2009; Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 89: 702S, 2009; Neurology 72: 361, 2009; Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 86: 1384, 2007; Arch. Intern. Med. 167: 21, 2007; JAMA 300: 1774, 2008; Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 88: 1602, 2008; Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 91: 1733, 2010; MMWR 53: 362, 2004; Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 92: 383, 2010
Topic Page: Salt in Food
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