Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Restaurant Calorie Surprise

I pretty much never go out for lunch when I'm working. 

My office is in a strip mall and is also directly across the street from a big shopping mall (4 department stores, tons of other store).  In the strip mall, there are 2 restaurants (Cheesecake Factory and Blue Mesa), a fro-yo place, and a big grocery store.  Across the street at the mall, there are a bunch of restaurants and a food court, but it's a very busy street to cross (3-4 lanes each direction), and I've only walked to the mall once (to buy something for my niece, never for lunch). 

Since we've been in this office location (just over 6 months now), I've been to Blue Mesa once for lunch (just last month) and to the fro-yo place twice.  I've certainly been out for lunch other places too, but those have generally been visiting attorney lunches where a big group of us goes.  And I've possibly gone to meet my husband a couple times. 

But generally, since I only have a car at work on Mondays, I don't go out for lunch.  On Mondays, when I drive to the office, I bring lunches for the week.  90% of the time, it's a frozen meal and an individual serving of frozen peas.  The other 10% of the time, it's leftovers. 

As far as frozen meals go, there is a pretty steady rotation but the only regular brands are Amy's and Lean Cuisine.

Well, yesterday, since it was Monday and I had a car, I had made lunch plans with a former colleague from the big firm where I worked the first seven or so years after law school.  We went to Gordon Biersch, which is less than half a mile from my office but not walk-able. 

As a vegetarian, my menu choices are somewhat limited at most restaurants and that's usually kind of a good thing -- back when I ate meat (or now, at an all vegetarian restaurant), it could take me FOREVER to decide what to order.  I'm not the most decisive person when it comes to ordering food, particularly if there are lots of options.  My ex-boyfriend used to joke that I became a vegetarian solely so that I could be ready to order at the same time as everyone else because I'd only have to decide between 2 or 3 things.  He had a point!

Anyway, at Gordon Biersch, there appeared to be 4 vegetarian options on the menu:  vegetarian tacos, a goat cheese and artichoke flatbread, a veggie burger, and a grilled cheese sandwich.  There was also a mixed greens salad that was veg I believe, but I can't remember.  I'm not really a "restaurant salad as an entree" kind of gal most of the time.  Either way, a vast majority of the salads on the menu had meat or fish, so they were also out of the running. 

So I'm not particularly watching what I eat right now.  I mentioned before that I ate a lot more crap than usual last week, but things should be pretty much back to normal this week.  And my mileage is pretty solid lately.  Here's what the last couple months have looked like:

3-17: 38.4 miles and 3 BC (boot camps)
3-24: 49.6 and 3 BC (plus treadmill walking w/ coworker)
3-31: 28.7 and 2 BC (low because no long run for Easter) (plus treadmill walking w/ coworker)
4-7: 40.6 and 2 BC (plus treadmill walking w/ coworker)
4-14: 31.8 and 2 BC
4-21: 32.3 and 2 BC
4-28: 35.8 and 2 BC
5-5: 31.3 and 3 BC
5-12: 40.8 and 2 BC
5-19: 31.2 and 3 BC
5-27:  54.8 and 1 BC (big jump, I know, I know)

Using a rough conversion rate of 100 calories per mile, that's more than 5,000 running calories burned last week. 

Last week was freakishly high miles, but I was feeling good and there was the half marathon race for the Memorial Day holiday.  I'm usually good about not bumping up mileage by much in any given week, but I thought the one week was safe. 

Anyway, where was I going with this post?  Oh yeah, not super worried about calories right now, but still happy to make healthier choices where I can.

There wasn't nutrition info on the menu, so I was left to my own devices to just guess about which of my 4 options would be healthiest. 

Vegetarian tacos, a goat cheese and artichoke flatbread, a veggie burger, or a grilled cheese sandwich? 

I figured vegetarian tacos or the veggie burger would be healthiest.  On closer inspection, the grilled cheese had bacon, so that was out of the question. 

I went with the flatbread because it sounded good.  It was!  I didn't think I'd eat it all, but I did. 

A conversation this morning on our group run about nutrition made me wonder how I'd done in my choice, so I just looked it up.  Gordon Biersch has nutritional info available online, which is totally awesome.

Vegetarian tacos:  about 600 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 11 saturated fat
Goat cheese and artichoke flatbread:  about 425 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 6 saturated fat
Veggie burger:  about 900 calories, 40 grams of fat, and 6 saturated fat
Grilled cheese sandwich:  about 1100 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 30 saturated fat

So I'd decided not to worry about nutrition, chose what I thought was the least healthy of the 3 options that remained (I would have guessed correctly that grilled cheese would be the worst), and surprise, I chose the healthiest of the three!  How bizarre! 

But seriously, would you have to be a nutrition buff to guess that correctly?  Or am I just that bad at guessing what is and is not healthy?  Were maybe the fries included with the burger in the stats?  I don't know, but it blew me away.   Lucky choice on my part -- even if I'm not super worried about calories, I don't exactly want a 900 calorie lunch on a given weekday. 


  1. Holy crap! 900 calories and 40 grams of fat for a veggie burger?!?!?! What the heck was that thing made out of? Was it breaded and deep fried? Jeez louise (hopefully that includes fries, but that's weird to lump it together like that). That's going to make me think twice about ordering a veggie burger from now. Which is sad, cause veggie burgers are one of my absolute fave things!

    1. No joke. I think they had to have included the fries (but if I'd ordered it, I'm sure I would have eaten the fries too). What's shocking is that it's listed as "on the lighter side" -- the lighter side of what??

      The menu says:

      We reject the notion that vegetarian cuisine be flavorless or boring. We craft a delicious burger from beans and veggies that's absolutely full of layered flavors. In addition to the traditional burger setup of lettuce and tomato, we kick things up with a housemade chipotle mayo.

  2. I would've definitely ordered the flatbread, too. It just sounds good. That veggie burger is quite deceiving, huh? I'm glad your choice worked out to be the best one.