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Eat This, Not That brings the subject of weight reduction back to what should matter: calorie counting. Many dieters are still downright oblivious to the amount of calories in their intake. When they are, they tend to underrate the actual calorie figures.

Eat This, Not That! Thousands of Simple Food Swaps that Can Save You 10, 20, 30 Pounds–or More! is equal parts a nutritional guide and coffee-table book. Penned by Men’s Health Editor David Zinczenko and nutrition/food editor Matt Goulding, the book features photos of delicious food counterbalanced by counts of calories, fats, sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates. On one side of every spread are eat-this foods and on the other side are their not-that counterparts.

Every page vaunts useful information. You may find the menu decoder section very helpful because it reveals the nutritional info of popular restaurants’ bestsellers.

Scrutinized in the book are grocery items and junk food, alongside common dishes in casual-dining restaurants and fast-food chains. This book serves as an expose of the jarring number of calories in the average American diet.

This book demonizes some restaurants and lionizes others. For example, it grades Pizza Hut with a D for selling 650-calorie-per-slice pan pizzas. Chick-fil-A, on the other hand, gets an A for menu items that never exceed 500 calories.

Not a few eateries have been moved to action after the book was published. Some have ditched high-calorie items from their offerings. Others opted for more transparency, posting the nutritional info of their menu online. P.F. Chang, which has been transparent about all but sodium content, made the initiative of informing Men’s Health about it. Chipotle recently resumed providing online nutritional info after a hiatus. Quiznos, which has withheld such info in its 26-year existence, caved in to pressure in 2007.

It is a tall order for you to memorize all the calorie counts in the book but don’t worry. Eat This, Not That is light enough to carry with you next time you eat out or do your grocery.

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How Eat This, Not That works

Goulding and Zinczenko opine that calories are the leading cause of fat gain. Unless you learn to mind your calories, you could never begin to manage your weight prudently.

Eat This, Not That can be taken to mean eating lower-calorie foods, not those with a chock full of fats. Just one flip through the book and you would realize how uninformed your food choices really are. More than you ever know, many of your favorite foods are loaded with calories.

For example, you may not know that the 20-ounce T-bone at Lonestar provides 1,540 calories. Meanwhile, the Awesome Blossom at Chili gives a whopping 2,710 calories. Those Aussie cheese fries at Outback contribute 2,900 calories.

This book would help inform your eating decisions, letting you skirt such prodigious amount of calories. But be reminded you cannot gorge on lots of food simply because a book says you can eat them. That would be missing the point, which is to control your total calorie intake every day.

You would only reduce a substantial amount of weight if you slash your calories and make informed eating choices in proportion to your physical activeness. If you hope to drop 2 lbs. every week, you need to burn 500 calories every day. If you’re a physically active man, set your daily intake between 2,200 and 2,400 calories. If you’re a physically active woman, shoot for 1,800 to 2,000 calories.

Unfortunately, the book lacks a real exercise component. However, it has ample suggestions on what to eat if you “want the most from your workout.”

What you can eat on Eat This, Not That

By order of the book, you must give up America’s “weapons of mass destruction,” the worst foods to include in your diet. These are the country’s most dangerous biochemical weapons, as it were, because they overshoot every nutritional chart in calories, fats, and sodium. In their place, contrive to eat the eight super foods every day, to wit: blueberries, black beans, carrots, oats, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, and yogurt.

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Between the super foods and the least-super ones, Zinczenko and Goulding try to inform your food choices. For example, they tell you to order the 380-calorie barbecue chicken crispani and ward off the 840-calorie Sierra turkey sandwich, both available at Panera. If you’re a Taco Bell fan, surrender the calorie-ridden Zesty Chicken Border Bowl for two grilled steak soft tacos, fresco-style.

Indeed, this book equips you with tips on how to become a calorie cheapskate by buying fresco-style foods. They are those laden with relatively harmless salsa instead of cheese and sauce. In addition, the tome presents a roll-call of healthy foods at the grocery, cafes, ice cream parlors, etc.

Experts weigh in Eat This, Not That

Nutritional experts have shied away from Eat This, Not That for more than one fleeting reason. They accuse the authors of unfounded health claims and several misleading info.

Eat This, Not That, as a diet, has been hoped by its authors to remove abdominal fat, despite the fact that no eating plan can target specific parts of the body. They also claim the diet can build lean muscle, contrary to the knowledge that bodybuilding is only done through resistance training. By the way, resistance training is the one thing you need to accelerate metabolism. For their part, the authors claim the diet alone can rev metabolism up.

Zinczenko and Goulding may mislead you when they say you can “eat what you want and watch the pounds disappear.” They are not giving emphatic credit to portion control for weight loss. They even say you would “never go hungry” if you just eat as you are told.

They also put out confusing info, like their claim that walnuts beat salmon in terms of omega-3 content. They also classify some perfectly nutritious food as unhealthy and vice-versa. For example, they make out berry punch and Jimmy Dean sausage to be nutritious, while pointing to Stonybrook Farms smoothies, buttermilk waffles, and Odwalla blackberry fruit shakes as the enemy. Just as perplexing are some of the foods labeled as eat-this by the authors: Outback’s prime rib with sweet potato and fresh vegetables (730 calories); Sonic burger with mustard (540 calories); Baskin-Robbins’ two-scoop hot fudge sundae (530 calories); Dairy Queen’s banana split (530 calories); and Au Bon Pain’s cinnamon roll (463 calories).

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Experts could chalk all these up to the authors’ credibility: They are not licensed nutritionists or dietitians. What they are just doing is recommending the lesser of two evils. As you may know, evil is evil, whichever way you look at it.

Not all love is lost for the tome. Dietitians like the book insofar as it exposes the decadence of today’s bestselling fare. Many consumers are still unwittingly ordering and buying food that would never be good for them. This book should be a great wake-up call.

Conclusion

This tome is virtually written for constant restaurant and fast-food patrons. It is essentially a portable bible, whereby you can make the right decisions in front of the supermarket or fast-food cashier.

But do not interpret Eat This, Not That as a weight loss eating regimen. Surely you would not eat lots of cinnamon rolls just because a single one has fewer calories than a Big Mac. Smaller portions are still the prevailing rule in weight reduction.

Even nutritious-sounding food should not always be “eat this.” You may think Turkey bacon is healthier than a normal one, but the former may end up having more salt. You may think chicken sandwich is superior to a hamburger, but if the former is too saucy or cheesy then you might as well eat the burger.

Try scaling back your weekly number of trips to fast-food chains and casual-dining restaurants. In the first place, these eateries should shrink the calorie content of their menus and whip up healthier alternatives. That way, no one would ever have the need to bring this book around.

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