"Diet Detective" Charles Platkin
This Winston-Salem Journal column from nutrition and public health advocate Charles Stuart Platkin underlines the challenge low-carbers face when trying to explain to others about healthy eating options when dining out at their favorite restaurants. I've written about this subject previously at this blog. But Platkin gives some very bad advice about what foods to order at several popular restaurants.
Platkin cites a recent National Restaurant Association survey that finds the average American goes out to eat 290 times a year. That's about 4-5 times a week that people dine at a restaurant which means people who are livin' la vida low-carb need to know what they can order to stay on the plan. Unfortunately, Platkin does not help with his suggestion of "a few healthier choices and tips" when dining out.
Beginning with TGI Friday's, Platkin recommends a chicken, salmon, chicken salad, and grouper dish which are all relatively low in fat and calories. But with side items such as rice, beans, veggies, and baked potatoes, these will quickly add up the carb totals of these meals.
The meats are fine as long as you watch out for hidden sugars in sauces and toppings, but you really ought to order green beans, cauliflower, or a fresh garden salad with full-fat Ranch dressing for your sides. It will help you stay on your low-carb lifestyle.
Of course, Platkin warns people to stay away from the "Atkins menu items and salads" because they "may be over 700 calories with dressing." Calories, schmalories! Eat up and by all means put lots of cheese on top of your meats and salads since it is low in carbohydrates. Predictably, Platkins advises against doing this.
At the Outback Steakhouse, Platkin promotes the shrimp, chicken or steak griller with "no butter or glaze," a baked potato with ketchup (EWW!) and absolutely "no butter or sour cream," and a house salad without croutons or cheese topped with low-fat (YUCK!) salad dressing. Okay, can I gag now?
If you're gonna eat grilled shrimp, chicken or steak, then load that bad boy up on butter when it's cooked! There's no other way to eat it when you're on low-carb. Skip the baked potato with ketchup because both are loaded with carbs anyway. Instead, get the house salad without croutons and with EXTRA cheese along with full-fat Ranch dressing.
He also recommends the Chicken or Shrimp on the Barbie again "without butter" with a baked or sweet potato and a house salad. Again, cook it with LOTS of butter, skip the potato, and build yourself a great house salad with cheese, bacon and full-fat Ranch dressing. As for a dipping sauce for your shrimp, try mustard or mayon instead of cocktail or barbecue sauces which are loaded with sugar.
Platkin says to "get used to saying 'no butter, please!'," but I say tell them to double the amount of butter they use please! Butter has ZERO carbs and you should savor every bite without any guilt whatsoever.
At Chili's restaurant, Platkin recommends anything on the low-calorie Guiltless Grill menu, which includes such carb-loaded dishes such as rice, corn on the cob, steamed vegetables, black beans, and tomato basil pasta without cheese. Tsk, tsk! You can choose much better foods to eat than those which will quickly derail your low-carb plan. Order the meats and enjoy a cool salad to temper the spicy flavor of the foods at this restaurant.
When you go to Applebee's, Platkin is completely in awe of the much-heralded low-fat/low-calorie Weight Watchers menu that recently debuted there with "better cooking techniques and healthier ingredients." The entrees on this menu may be low in fat and calories, but they include dishes with a lot of hidden sugars, including Teriyaki (sugar) Shrimp Skewers with rice pilaf and vegetables and Grilled Tilapia with mango (sugar) salsa. Interestingly, Platkin says to "steer clear of the Bleu Cheese Sirloin," but that's one I would HIGHLY recommend to someone following a low-carb lifestyle. Enjoy a great salad with it for a perfect meal.
Finally, at Red Lobster, Platkin points people to their LightHouse menu where they can eat their lobster with cocktail sauce instead of butter to "save calories." Oh please! Dip that thing in gobs and gobs of butter like it was meant to be enjoyed and stop worrying about the calories! The same goes for the shrimp and crab legs. Enjoy these ZERO carb foods with ZERO carb butter!
I don't fault Platkin for espousing his low-fat/low-calorie montra because that's all he's ever known as a trained expert in nutrition. He even wrote a book called The Automatic Diet which calls for a portion-controlled, low-fat, low-calorie approach to weight loss. Ho-hum! Can't they come up with ANYTHING different?
I know! They can start livin' la vida low-carb and offer people a real way to find lasting, permanent and deliciously satifying weight loss. You can write the "Diet Detective" himself at firstname.lastname@example.org.
07/02/2005 UPDATE: Well check out this little temper tantrum response I got from Mr. Diet Detective himself, Charles Platkin over at CommonVoice.com after reading my blog entry from Thursday entitled "Healthy Low-Carb Choices Abound At Popular Restaurants":
Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy,
Criticizing the book The Automatic Diet, that you probably didn’t read (or if you did, you didn’t get it, b/c it’s NOT about low cal, low fat anything), talking about weight loss and pushing a low carb diet, high fat diet when 98 percent of those that do it fail long term. Come on now. Shame on you. My recommendations are NOT low fat or low carb—they’re both ridiculous b/c diets DON'T WORK, if they did we would all be thin—right? If any of those diets worked why would we as a nation be getting fatter and fatter (or you dispute the figures as well).
I believe in a concept called CALORIE BARGAINS---basically finding foods that you typically eat, and replacing them for lower calorie foods (that you can live with forever—making small changes). As someone who lost 50 pounds and kept it off for more than 10 years I would challenge most of your comments. What you’re saying is more nonsense that confuses an already confused public. The only long term research on weight control—long term—shows that YOU ARE FLAT out wrong. So, do you’re homework, before you have readers even more confused—AND MUCH FATTER.
Whew! I think Platkin needs to take a valium or something before his insides implode on him! LOL! Seriously, can you believe this guy is actually PAID to write columns on the issue of health and fitness? He bemoans any criticism of his book (although the crux of my concern was with his specific article on dining out) while lambasting low-carb as a failure.
Interestingly, he quotes that 98 percent of people who are livin' la vida low-carb fail to stay on it long-term. But I contend that is about the percentage of people who fail on a low-fat/low-calorie diet because it is not sustainable. I agree with him that "diets" don't work, but lifestyle changes such as low-carb can and do work. How else could I keep off the 180 pounds I lost in 2004?
Although he claims his philosophy is not about low-fat or low-calorie, he even admits that his "calorie bargains" mumbo jumbo is predicated on finding foods you like that are portion-controlled and lower in calories than other foods you may want to eat. How is this NOT a low-calorie diet, Mr. Platkin? You may say otherwise, but you are just a part of the low-calorie crowd that will never accept any weight loss plan that goes against what you believe is the only way to lose weight.
People who are livin' la vida low-carb do not count calories, fat grams or measure our foods. We just eat good, wholesome, and delicious controlled-carb foods that satisfy our appetites and our taste buds. While I applaud you on your 50-pound weight loss and for keeping it off since 1995, I would hope you would also recognize my 180-pound weight loss success and wish me the best as I continue my low-carb lifestyle to keep it off for the rest of my life.
I have said it many times that I believe people who are overweight or obese need to find SOMETHING to do about their weight problem. Whether it is your approach or mine, it's important that people have all the options to consider and not just one. Your way may be compelling to some while low-carb may be just the thing for someone else. But too often we have seen low-carb shoved into the corner like an unwanted stepchild in the weight debate and that's just wrong.
I will not stop my own personal crusade to tell the whole world about livin' la vida low-carb because I am a man whose life was transformed for the better because of it. I now have the privilege of telling everyone I know that this may be the solution they have been looking for regarding weight loss their entire lives. There is no confusion about what I have to say, Mr. Platkin. I simply offer my own story as personal evidence that this way of eating works and works well.
One more thing: Don't lecture me on doing my homework regarding weight loss. After trying and failing on more diets like yours than I care to remember, I was finally able to educate myself about the effective low-carb plan and lose weight for myself. It's the only thing that has ever worked for me to not only lose weight, but keep it off for good.
If people want to read your book and follow what you have to say, then good for them. But I have just as much a right as citizen of the United States of America to tell my story of hope and success for people struggling with their weight. And neither you nor any of your low-fat/low-calorie/portion-control supporters can silence me in the land of the free and the home of the brave!
I appreciate your feedback, Mr. Platkin, but make sure you take your medicine next time before ranting and raving about what I have written. In due time, you'll see how wrong you are about low-carb.
How about we all start educating Mr. Diet Detective Charles Platkin about low-carb by sending him e-mail to email@example.com? I'm sure he'll appreciate hearing from people who have lost weight on low-carb and kept it off for many years. Let's open his eyes to this fact so he'll hear the message loud and clear!