Are grass-fed burgers and veggie sandwiches lower in calories?

“When we started Chili’s, people called us the hamburger hippies,” says the television ad. “Maybe the name still fits—100% grass-fed beef. New on any of our hand-crafted all-natural burgers.”burger

You may prefer that the cattle that became your dinner spent its life grazing on grass. And some cuts of grass-fed beef may be leaner than grain-fed. But don’t assume that grass-fed hamburgers are lighter.

Chili’s grass-fed beef patty has the same calories (about 400), saturated fat (about 14 grams), and trans fat (1½ grams) as its regular beef patty.

That means that a Chili’s Oldtimer hamburger made with a grass-fed patty still packs 790 calories and 20 grams of sat fat (a day’s worth). And that’s before you add the 390-calorie side of fries. Urp.

Grass-fed beef is also showing up in supermarkets and at Outback Steakhouse, Chipotle, and other chains.

Bottom line: Roaming pastures may be better for cattle, but don’t assume that grass-fed hamburgers are healthier for you.


What about a sandwich made with vegetables instead of meat?

A veggie sandwich sure sounds healthy.fries But if you’re not careful, you could end up with an oversized grilled cheese sandwich with just a few vegetables.

Take The Cheesecake Factory.

Its Veggie Melt offers “avocado, artichoke, roasted red pepper, tomato and kale with herbed goat cheese, mozzarella, fontina and parmesan cheeses on grilled multi-grain bread.”

But each order—you’ll get three half-sandwiches—delivers 1,570 calories, 34 grams of saturated fat, and 3,010 milligrams of sodium. Yikes! You’re talking three McDonald’s Big Macs. When was the last time you ate three Big Macs at one sitting?

Did we mention that there’s also no whole grain in the multi-grain bread? (The company told us.) And that it gets smeared with butter (and maybe oil) before grilling? Or that the Melt comes with a 470-calorie side of fries? (Or you can get a 190-calorie salad.)

Dave & Buster’s Grilled Portobello & Veggie Sandwich with onions, Swiss cheese, spinach, and tomatoes on a toasted bun, including a small side of dressed greens, weighs in at 1,150 calories.

The Corner Bakery Cafe’s California Grille sandwich of zucchini, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes and pesto with fresh spinach and provolone cheese on grilled Harvest bread hits 700 calories.

These are not as hefty as The Cheesecake Factory, but you’ve still passed Big Mac territory.

Bottom line: Want veggies? Order a salad. Otherwise, you’re probably getting mostly white flour, cheese, and grilling grease.

Hungry for a sandwich? Half is enough these days. Today’s half-sandwiches are as big as what we used to call, well, sandwiches.

Remember when a sandwich was a slice of baloney or a smear of peanut butter and jelly between two thin slices of white bread, slipped into a small plastic sandwich bag?

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