HABIT CHANGE #3: Are You Eating These “Healthy Fakes”?

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In the last habit, you learned why experts equate the harmful effects of cigarette smoking to sitting, and how damaging sitting 6+ hours a day is on your body and your life expectancy.

I hope this encouraged you to look for ways you can start standing more while at work, like creating a standing desk. Whether it’s as simple as putting your laptop on a pile of books or purchasing one of the products we use and recommend, just do something that will get you out of that desk chair more every day. 


Let’s dive into Habit Change #3, the “healthy” fakes.

Studies show that people who eat at restaurants are consuming higher levels of sugar, sodium, and fat, than those people cooking their meals at home.

However, cooking at home just isn’t realistic for a lot us. Many of us are simply exhausted from our day and can’t possible conjure the energy to make something from scratch, or we’re away from home for most of the week living in hotels, or we have a job where we need to be meeting clients over lunch or dinner.

When eating at restaurants or fast casual places, many of us try to be healthier by ordering something with vegetables or lettuce to balance out the “not so good for us” entrée we just ordered.

However, while we think we’re ordering something nutritious for us like a salad or Brussels sprouts, we may have just ordered a “healthy” fake.

It’s much easier to avoid the fakers when shopping at a grocery store as we have the ingredient and nutrition label to guide our decision; however, when at a restaurant, we don’t have this same luxury. Although some places are getting better at adding calorie counts and labels like “Low Sodium” or “Gluten Free” to their menus, most are leaving the detective work up to us. 

There’s a lot to navigate on a menu; however, here’s one of our “healthy” fakers you can start watching out for the next time you’re out at lunch or dinner: 

THE SALAD IMPOSTORS:

A “salad” is defined as “a mixture of small pieces of raw or cooked food, usually combined with a dressing and served cold.”  When we hear the word “salad”, most people will visualize something with a base of greens with a variety of toppings like tomatoes and maybe a protein or two, and equate the word to “healthy” and “good for us.” 

However, “salad” by definition can also be a cold pasta with dressing, tuna mixed with mayonnaise, as well as a concoction of green Jell-O, canned fruit and mini marshmallows. 

That said, if wanting to order a salad that really is good for you, you’ll need to watch out for the “healthy” imposters, because they aren’t as obvious as bright green Jell-O with marshmallows.  

TOP TWO SALAD “HEALTHY” FAKES:



1. THE ICEBERG WEDGE SALAD:

This “salad” is top of our Avoid list. Did you know that the average restaurant iceberg wedge salad contains 560 calories, 1000mg of sodium, and 50 – 75g of saturated fat?

What’s worse than its high amount of sodium and saturated fat is that it has zero nutritional value. Iceberg lettuce has zero vitamins or minerals, and the dressing, blue cheese crumbles, and bacon are high in fat and sodium.

With the typical iceberg wedge salad selection, you’re loading a high number of calories, sodium, and fat into your body and getting no nutritional benefit from it. There is simply no good way to modify a wedge salad to be “better for you”, so our recommendation is to avoid it altogether. 

2. THE CAESAR SALAD:

I used to think that Caesar Salad was a good option to order for lunch or as a dinner starter. But this one is a healthy impostor as well. A side Caesar salad with dinner can set you back 440 calories, 31g of fat, and 700+ mg of sodium – almost the same as a Big Mac.

If you think that’s bad, then watch out for the full-sized portion. The lunch entrée Caesar Salad w/All-Natural Chicken Breast from a well-known steakhouse chain has a whopping 1200 calories, 70g of fat, and a shocking 2100mg of sodium. 

BE A HABIT SHIFTER IS 1-2-3: 

So how can you shift this habit?

1. GOOGLE IT:

Before ordering, do a quick google search for the nutritional contents of the menu item, avoiding higher saturated fats, sodium levels, and sugar, while looking for higher vitamin and mineral content and protein. MyFitnessPal.com has a large food database that’s a great resource to leverage when in doubt. 

2. GO GREEN:

Avoid the white iceberg lettuce, and opt for the more nutritious variety. Mixed greens and romaine are better for you than iceberg, yet you really should go for salads with the dark leafy greens like spinach or kale when possible. And don’t be afraid to ask the lettuce to be swapped out for some spinach. Most places will be happy to oblige.

3. DRESSING:

Many restaurants do not make their own salad dressings, and as a result, the salad dressing could include lots of chemicals and harmful additives in addition to high amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium:

  • You should always avoid creamy dressings like Ranch and Blue Cheese. Exchange them for a non-creamy based dressing, like a citrus vinaigrette or balsamic. 
  • A good practice is to ask for the dressing on the side so you can control the portion.
  • Avoid low-fat dressing as well, as the “fat” is replaced with high amounts of sugar and harmful additives.
  • When in doubt, you can always ask them to toss it with some olive oil and lemon…or ask for some olive oil, vinegar, and lemon wedges to create your own dressing.

Figuring out what to eat is a big pain point for busy folks, and something I hear all the time from friends and clients:

  • “I just don’t know what to eat when traveling,”
  • “My diet doesn’t happen when I work long days,”
  • “It’s much easier to pick something up on the way home.”

With so many “healthy” fakes lurking on menus, there’s a big need to have cheat sheets for the healthier dining options. We’ve created our “what to eat” cheat sheets to help you navigate through the fakers at specific restaurants, fast casuals, drive-thru, even room service, so you’ll have the “better for you” options always with you.

Next up in Habit #4, I ask the question, “Are you guilty of abusing your largest organ?” We’ll look into a serious health stressor that Europeans have known about for years, yet we Americans aren’t paying attention to. 

Track this new habit:

Check off this habit in your Healthy Habits Tracker (download yours for free here).

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Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson is on a mission to inspire healthier living using the power of micro-habits.

She’s a popular speaker, a board-certified health & wellness coach, and founder of One Degree Health.

As a former Fortune 500 executive, she knows firsthand how a busy schedule can interfere with prioritizing our health.

Danielle started One Degree Health to share her Micro-Habit Mindset and wellness formula with other busy professionals through engaging workshops, online coaching & nutrition programs, and private coaching.

Founder & Chief Wellness Officer, One Degree Health; Functional Nutritionist, Lifestyle Medicine Specialist, Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Gluten-Free Practitioner, Plant-Based Nutrition certified from Cornell University.

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One Degree Health & Founder As Seen and Heard In

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