Calorie-count shockers: did you know that lowfat muffin has 400 calories? Or that restaurant appetizer packs 3,000? Facts and figures you need to know before you take another bite – Nutrition

Suzanne Schlosberg

At Starbucks the other day, I pointed to the Classic Coffee Cake enticing me from behind the glass and asked my friend Allan, “How many calories do you think it has?” Allan guessed 400. When I told him the truth – 630 calories, plus 10 grams of saturated fat – he was stunned. So was our Starbucks’ server, who blurted out, “No, it doesn’t!” When I referred the employee to the nutrition-information notebook behind the counter (which I’d asked to peruse on an earlier visit), he changed his tune. “Well, it’s not like people come to Starbucks for spa food,” he said.

True enough. When you order pastries, you know you’re splurging. Still, the actual numbers may come as a surprise. Even nutrition experts are sometimes taken aback by the nutritional content of restaurant foods. “We’re frequently shocked at the number of calories and fat grams in appetizers and meals,” says Bonnie Liebman, M.S., director of nutrition at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which periodically analyzes restaurant menu items. Here’s a look at some of the restaurant foods worth scrutinizing before you make a purchase – or take a bite.

* Coffee drinks Have you had a Starbucks Frappuccino lately? Or an iced mocha or latte? If so, you may have downed more than 300 calories, depending on the size of your drink, the type of milk and syrup you chose and whether you said yes to whipped cream. “We’ve turned coffee into a coffee milkshake,” Liebman says. “Many people still have the idea that the calories in coffee drinks don’t count, but whipped cream isn’t free.” In fact, it costs you 80-100 calories.

The calorie king at Starbucks is a venti (20-ounce) mocha with whole milk and whipped cream, topping out at 510 calories (and 18 grams of saturated fat). Talk about a jolt! Drop down to a grande (16-ounce) mocha with nonfat milk and no whipped cream, and you cut the calories to a less shocking but still substantial 320 (and 8 grams of saturated fat). Those blended coffee drinks can pack a big calorie punch too. At Auntie Anne’s, a pretzel joint that competes with Starbucks at many malls and airports, a Mocha Dutch Ice contains 570 calories and 12.5 grams of saturated fat, more than half a day’s worth. You’re better off with a tall (12-ounce) Starbucks coffee Frappuccino, at 180 calories and 1.5 grams of saturated fat, or even a grande, at 270 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat. (Still, if a grande Frappuccino is a daily habit with you, you could lose 2.3 pounds in a month by eliminating it.)

Pleasant coffee surprise A 16-ounce grande nonfat cappuccino contains 110 calories at Starbucks, a nonfat latte 160 calories; both have little or no saturated fat.

* Snacks (muffins, pastries, pretzels)

What do you usually order with your coffee drink? An orange bran muffin? A lowfat banana maple scone? A slice of carrot cake? If so, you’re adding more than 400 calories with each snack – 600 in the case of the carrot cake. “People think they’re eating a snack, but caloriewise, they’re eating a meal,” Liebman says.

Pastry numbers can be dumbfounding. An almond croissant at Au Bon Pain contains 570 calories, just 20 less than a McDonald’s Big Mac, plus 16 grams of saturated fat, an entire day’s worth. Muffins at Starbucks range from 400-500 calories with up to 10 grams of saturated fat. Lowfat muffins are only slightly lower in calories – averaging 330 – but they contain little to no saturated fat. It may not come as a shock that a Cinnabon Caramel Pecanbon or a Mrs. Fields Peanut Butter Dreambar both contain 670 calories, but would you guess that a 2-ounce shortbread cookie at Au Bon Pain contains 390? Starbucks cookies range from 390-425 calories and from 4 grams of saturated fat (ginger molasses) to 7 (oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip), The scones weigh in at 425-540 calories and 8 grams of saturated fat.

Gourmet pretzels are no calorie bargain, either. At Auntie Anne’s, most are about 350 calories without butter and 450 with butter. A Glazin’ Raisin pretzel with butter contains 510 calories, although you do get 4 grams of fiber.

Pleasant snack surprises Satisfy your sweet tooth with a low-cal Starbucks biscotti (100 calories) or chocolate-covered graham cracker (150 calories).

* Restaurant portions Unlike foods sold in supermarkets, most restaurant items don’t come with any nutrition facts. Denny’s certainly isn’t going to advertise the fact that its Super Slam breakfast contains 1,570 calories and 25 grams of saturated fat. And steakhouses won’t broadcast that the cheese-fries appetizer plate with ranch dressing can contain an astonishing 3,010 calories (CSPI found that out when it analyzed menu items at 26 steakhouses nationwide.) So what’s a consumer to do?

One strategy is to tote around CSPI’s Eating Smart Restaurant Guide, a handy foldout card reflecting extensive lab analysis. The guide tells you how many calories and artery-clogging fat grams (saturated fat plus trans fat) are contained in the typical serving of hundreds of menu items in a variety of categories, from Chinese to seafood to Mexican. (You can order the $4 guide through Some of the numbers are startling. For instance, a typical restaurant serving of spaghetti with meatballs is 3 1/2 cups and contains 1,160 calories – twice as many calories as a typical 12-ounce portion of trimmed New York strip steak. A 2-cup serving of lasagna weighs in at 960 calories – about the same as a 20-ounce serving of trimmed porterhouse steak – and 21 grams of artery-clogging fat (11 fewer grams than the porterhouse, which has 32 grams of saturated fat).

And next time you think about going to a fast-food joint, first check out the restaurant’s Web site, where you can find nutrition information on many menu items. Some of the numbers may startle you – a Taco Bell Taco Salad with salsa contains 850 calories, for instance. The numbers may make you think twice about driving through.

Pleasant restaurant surprises The Thai Chicken Sandwich at Au Bon Pain contains 420 calories and just 1 gram of saturated fat, and the Honey Smoked Turkey Wrap contains 540 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat, according to a CSPI analysis. Best steakhouse choice: A 10-ounce barbecue chicken breast served with a vegetable and a house salad with fat-free dressing contain just 550 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat. Best Italian: chicken Marsala. A typical 10-ounce portion contains just 460 calories and only 7 grams of harmful fat.

RELATED ARTICLE: At Starbucks, a 20-ounce mocha coffee drink with whole milk and whipped cream is 510 calories. Add a muffin and you’ve got a 900- to 1,000-calorie snack.

Try a Starbucks’ 16-ounce nonfat cappuccino instead (110 calories), with a biscotti (100 calories each) for a reasonable calorie total of 210.

Suzanne Schlosberg is the author of Fitness for Travelers (Houghton Miff lin, 2002).

COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

You May Also Like

Losing fat at your waist

Losing fat at your waist – Weight Loss Q+A Suzanne Schlosberg When I lose weight, it comes off at my hips. How can I lose fat aroun…

Should you fear french fries?

Should you fear french fries? – Eat Right Sharon Cohen Earlier this year, a loud alarm was sounded over popular foods such as potat…

Help yourself to better health—for free

Help yourself to better health—for free – Think Healthy Sharon Cohen The National Women’s Health Information Center (a project of …

Get superbuff biceps: three variations on an arm-toning classic

Get superbuff biceps: three variations on an arm-toning classic – Target Training Stacy Whitman TRAINER’S STRATEGY Get visib…