Better Than Salad at Wendy’s

Dining out lo-co can be a challenge – especially if you find yourself at a fast food joint. Yes, of course, you shouldn’t be there, but if you are going to dine fast-food style (and you know you are), there are some good lo-co choices.

And it’s not just salad anymore.


Last week, my son and I were finishing up our it-feels-like-1000-doctors-he-has-to-see-before-he-leaves-for-college expedition, and we had 2 appointments in one day and an hour to kill.  And it was lunchtime.  Naturally we went to Wendy’s.

Now, I was all set to order their Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, the virtues of which I wrote about in this post, I Heart My Fitness Pal.  But I’ve been eating a lot of salad lately, and I was a bit sad about the possibility of salad once again.

Suddenly, I perked up at a sign I’d never seen before advertising a Smoky Honey Mustard Flatbread Grilled Chicken Sandwich — and this pretty sandwich proudly wore a big red button proclaiming it had just 370 calories.

Must be lo-co!

I whipped out my iPhone and looked it up on My Fitness Pal (again, I love this app), and it turns out, this grilled chicken flatbread sandwich is even BETTER than the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, lo-co wise! (And of course, far healthier than even the smallest burger.)

I gasped. My son nudged me, and hissed, “What is wrong with you?” When I showed him my phone, he rolled his eyes. But I ignored him and soldiered forward.

The details: Wendy’s grilled chicken flatbread sandwich has 30 more calories than the Wendy’s Half Apple Pecan Chicken Salad… BUT it has less fat and less cholesterol! And, to me, the chicken sandwich is far, far more satisfying than a salad for lunch.

Plus, with a burger, fries are just plain required…  whereas with the chicken sandwich (or a salad) I could get away with just swiping a few from my son and not feel, well, cheated.

Here are the stats, courtesy of My Fitness Pal:

Wendy's Lunch Options
I’m thrilled to find another fast food option — beyond the boring salad (though I will admit that Wendy’s salad is good, as salads go) — that is a decent lo-co choice.

But I am very, very sad to find out this sandwich might not  be available for very long! The Wendy’s site says this sandwich is, “At Participating Wendy’s, for a limited time.”

Please don’t take my chicken flatbread away, Wendy’s!



Cholesterol Tests Your Doctor Hasn’t Told You About

A standard cholesterol lipid panel  provides four measures: Total Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol and Triglycerides.  But did you know that there are two other blood tests — and one ratio that’s easy to calculate — that can better predict your risk of heart disease?  Which means that even with high cholesterol, you might not need a statin medication if these tests show low cardiac disease risk.

Or you might think you don’t need a statin … and in fact do.

And yet, your doctor probably has not told you about these tests.  So let me.

Apolipoprotein B – or as it’s commonly referred to, ApoB, is a simple blood test that measures the number and size of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Why this test is useful is well explained by Johns Hopkins Health Alerts:

“The problem with using LDL cholesterol levels to determine heart attack risk is that the test measures only the amount of cholesterol in the LDL cholesterol particles, not the number or size of these particles. Apo B measurements, on the other hand, provide information on the number of LDL cholesterol particles.

For example, people with a higher apo B value than LDL cholesterol value tend to have smaller, denser LDL cholesterol particles. Studies have shown that small, dense LDL cholesterol particles are more strongly associated with heart attack risk than large, “fluffy” LDL cholesterol particles.”

So if you have high LDL cholesterol (goal is under 130), you might want to find out if you have the ‘fluffy’ kind of LDL (pattern A), or the more dangerous, small, dense type of LDL (pattern B). Indeed, the Johns Hopkins Health Alert goes on to explain, “Research published in The Lancet reviewed five studies of LDL cholesterol and ApoB in nearly 200,000 people. The researchers concluded that high levels of ApoB were more strongly linked with future heart attack risk than LDL cholesterol levels.”  Compelling, no?

Low Density Particle Number, or LDL-P, is a similar measure – and again, one that’s been shown to be a more accurate predictor of heart disease than the typical cholesterol measurements.  LDL-P measures the number of LDL particles in the blood, whereas LDL is just the total LDL cholesterol.

As explained in The Difference Between LDL-C and LDL-P on the Primal Docs website, two people with the same LDL numbers can have vastly different heart disease risk because one has low LDL-P (fewer LDL particles of the type A, big, fluffy kind) while the other has high LDL-P, or a lot of LDL particles, of the small, dense, type B kind:

“…one person (person A) may have large cholesterol rich LDL particles, while another (person B) may have smaller cholesterol depleted particles. These two persons may have the same LDL-C concentration. However, person B will have higher LDL particle number (LDL-P). Despite similar levels of LDL-C, person B is at higher risk four future cardiovascular events. Furthermore, person B will have more small LDL-particles.”

The doctor who wrote this explanation of LDL-C vs. LDL-P goes on to explain that both LDL-P and ApoB are stronger predictors of heart disease risk than typical cholesterol measures:

“Some studies have suggested that the size of LDL-particles may be of importance. People whose LDL particles are predominantly small and dense, have a threefold greater risk of coronary heart disease.

ApoB and LDL-P both reflect the number of atherogenic lipoprotein particles. Measurements of ApoB and LDL-P are better predictors of cardiovascular disease risk than LDL-C. Furthermore, ApoB and LDL-P may predict residual risk among individuals who have had their LDL-C levels lowered by statin therapy.”

Non-HDL Cholesterol is a third important measure — and you don’t even need to take a blood test. Non-HDL-C is simply your Total Cholesterol minus HDL Cholesterol.  The tricky part is figuring out goal: if your LDL cholesterol is “at goal” you can roughly estimate your non-HDL-C goal by simply adding 30 to your LDL goal (these goals are usually on the cholesterol report – they are also online or you can ask your doctor.) And if it’s not at goal, discuss this ratio with your doctor.  I wrote about non-HDL-C and how to calculate it in this blog post, Do You Know Your Non-HDL Cholesterol?

While researching these in-depth cholesterol tests, I came across this compelling medical case study. It socked me in the gut, as this woman’s lipid panel cholesterol results were similar to mine, and yet it turns out from the additional LDL-P and ApoB testing that she was at high risk for cardiac disease. And needed statins.


So how do you get these tests?

I asked my internist about them months ago, and she said I didn’t need them — that my cholesterol numbers are fine. But now that I’ve read this case study I feel I would love more information.  I’ll have to ask her again about additional testing – especially now that I have more info.

And just so you know, you don’t have to travel to the Cleveland Clinic or the Mayo Clinic or Berkeley, California to get these tests. The Johns Hopkins Health Report explains,

“One widely used test, called the NMR LipoProfile, analyzes the size of lipoprotein particles in the blood by measuring their magnetic properties. Several others, including the LipoPrint and the Berkeley (from Berkeley HeartLab) use electrical fields to distinguish the size and other attributes of lipoprotein particles. Still another, known as the VAP (for Vertical Auto Profile) test, separates lipoprotein particles using a highspeed centrifuge.”

Even though my cholesterol is at goal, I’ve got to put in a call to my internist to ask about getting both the LDL-P and ApoB testing done. Will keep you posted.


Dining Out Lo-Co

As I mentioned in last week’s ‘Erasing Onion Rings with Salad‘ post, dinners at our annual week-long Cape Cod family reunion involve several multiple-family, how-is-it-vacation-if-you’re-cooking-for-12? style dinners.  Though all are fun (as long as it’s not your night to cook), from a lo-co perspective, some (the fish dinner) are um, far healthier than the others (steak, ribs, lobster).

But it’s more than just the cooking-in family dinners.  There’s also the one night all 12+ of us troop out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate the summer birthdays and anniversaries. This year we went to l’Alouette – a self-described french bistro in Harwich, which none of us had been to in over a decade.

I don’t know who chose l’Alouette, but the food was spectacular.  The service not so much. And that my 18 year old son and 23 year old niece were in the room took the average dining age down a decade or two.  So ambience, well…

But no matter – the food was superb and they sat us at a round table that made it easy to talk. Because we don’t have enough of that during the other 4 family dinners.

But I digress.

The real problem hit when I looked at the menu.  There was very little that even resembled lo-co on the menu.  And by that I mean nothing.  For example, here were the appetizers:

  • Bistro Onion Soup Gratinee – Gruyere crouton.
  • Crispy Duck Confit – frisee – star anise, port & honey glace.
  • Seared Foie Gras – caramelized asian pears – muscat & honey glace.
  • Warm Wellfleet Oysters – light fennel curry, salmon caviar & chives.
  • Escargots a la Bourguignonne – garlic, shallot, white wine & parsley butter.
  • Mussels au Vin Blanc – steamed with white wine, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, leeks & thyme.

This appetizer offering meant, with my shellfish allergy, that I had only three choices: onion soup, duck confit, or seared foie gras.  Aren’t you proud of me that I did not order the foie gras (which is basically fatty meat cooked in fat?)  Don’t be, I’m not a fan so it wasn’t too hard a choice.  Though I’ll take credit anyway.  And I wouldn’t want to guess at the fat and cholesterol in onion soup gratinee or duck confit.

So I had to skip the apps and peruse the salads.  And salads, as you know, make me sad. To cope, I downed half of my vodka on the rocks while considering my options (I guess I could have been the only one to skip the first course, but at least salad has fiber, which is lo-co, so…)  Here were the salad offerings:

  • Field Salad with Fresh Herbs – herb vinaigrette.
  • Arugula, Fennel, Oil Cured Olives & Grapefruit – citrus vinaigrette.
  • Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Pears & Pine Nuts – Dijon vinaigrette.
  • Asparagus Salad – roasted mushrooms, shaved Parmesan – truffle vinaigrette.

I ordered the field salad, right?


Though clearly I should have as it’s the best lo-co choice.  But I’d had half a vodka already, and the field salad was, just, well, boring.  And there was nothing WARM in it – and that’s the only way I can stomach salad – it has to have a warm, happy element.

I would have ordered the asparagus salad but they were out if it.  Big sigh.  And I despise fennel.

So that left the warm goat cheese salad.  Which was wonderful though not lo-co.  That said, I did my best to make it so by eating just half the goat cheese.  Or about half.  Maybe three-quarters.  But definitely not more than that.

At this point, I downed the rest of my vodka. Then decided that while considering the entrees, I’d best switch to wine. Even though I wasn’t driving.

I thought I’d be home-free for the dinner portion of this so-far-not-lo-co meal.  That it’d be easy to order a lo-co entree even though it’s a french bistro because there’s always fish. And we were on the Cape, home of amazing fresh fish.  And I actually like fish grilled with just olive oil.

But alas, lo-co trouble was around every corner of this french bistro.

They only had 2 fish dishes on the menu that night: salmon and swordfish.  Salmon, well, I eat lox daily so that’s really a no-go for me, and swordfish is the only fish I do not like.

Seriously?  We were at a fine restaurant on the Cape, and I couldn’t even order fish. Clearly bigger forces were at work.

I glanced at the meat, but not surprisingly, it was nearly all red meat. There was a crispy half-chicken option, but I eat so much chicken at home that I have a rule against ordering chicken in restaurants.

So clearly, I had no choice but to order the seafood special: a lobster tail served over corn polenta. Which, I have to admit, was heavenly. So much so, that it was probably worse lo-co wise than the red meat (clearly it was bathed in butter).

But who knows, really, for sure?

In the end, I failed miserably in dining out lo-co. Which is odd, because usually, I can do pretty well in restaurants. But alas, not this time.

I finished my wine and shrugged (we were in a french bistro, so shrugging seemed apropos) – and said to myself, ‘well, it was just one night.’  And resolved that next year, I will choose the restaurant.

I might have to start perusing restaurant menus now.

With a glass of wine, of course.



Erasing Onion Rings with Salad

Every summer, we rent a house in Cape Cod for a week for a family reunion with my husband’s family.  With a whole family of foodies, our traditions run the food gamut from the very NOT lo-co joy of Liam’s onion rings (must be scored within 24 hours of arriving on Cape) and the Chocolate Sparrow (thank goodness they do not exist at home) to the also-not-lo-co family dinners we take turns hosting.

There are now 3 home-hosted family dinners in one week:  first is the lobster & rib dinner at my in-laws (one brother-in-law has ribs flown in from Montgomery’s in Cincinnati – no idea how that started… the lobsters are of course local).  Then there’s the porterhouse & tenderloin steak dinner at my other brother-in-law’s rental home.  My husband and I added the vaguely more healthful “fish dinner” a few years ago at our rental home (not even going to comment on how not a vacation it is to host a dinner for 10-12 in a rental house). And I refer to our fish dinner as only vaguely heathy even though we served fish, grilled veggies, cous cous and salad because, well, there’s a great deal of cheese and pepperoni at cocktail hour, and the amount of vodka and wine consumed (there’s usually a card game after dinner) can reach epic proportions.

Oh, and then there are more onion rings at lunch on the beach.  In fact, the onion rings at Nauset Beach’s snack shack, Liam’s, are so amazing I usually have them at least 3 times in one week.  And Liam’s – like Gold’s Deli in my home town — is in my speed dial.

Embarrassing, I know.

So this year, I decided to try to have some salad (gasp) during the week to offset the effect of huge family dinners, too much drinking and the deadly, delicious onion rings.

I remembered to bring BOTH my new favorite salad dressing recipe AND the cruet AND a bottle of sherry vinegar with us to Cape Cod.  The first night here, as part of the lobster & rib dinner, I made salad (we usually don’t have any greens that first night!)  And everyone LOVED the dressing.

Salad Cape CodSo I had to make a new batch of it the next day so I could have some salad for lunch or dinner at home (when I wasn’t inhaling onion rings).  See, proof: here’s a picture of a salad I made for dinner the day after the lobster/rib dinner — this picture was moments before I added some warmed rib meat for protein!

And let’s just pretend that bleu cheese is not there…

My 85 year old mother-in-law even asked for the recipe.  And that NEVER happens.

When I sat at my in-law’s PC and tried to print the mustard vinaigrette recipe from my “How I learned…to love salad” post, I realized I never posted it in an accessible, recipe format – that I only posted the link to the New York Times article David Tanis wrote about this salad.  So here it is: the recipe for the first salad dressing that is so delicious (and easy) that I even made it while on vacation:

For a triple recipe – enough for a dinner party or salad all week:

  • 2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 6 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • some finely grated garlic (I use 2 cloves – the recipe asks for 1 1/2 teaspoons) and
  • 9 Tablespooons EVOO
  • Salt and pepper to taste

As David Tanis advises, “Whisk together mustard, vinegar and garlic. Whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.”  Then I just pour into a cruet and store in my refrigerator.

Voila.  A healthy meal to counter the effects of too many rich meals and, um, onion rings.

Because that works, right?


Oh well, no worries – vacation ends tomorrow.