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healthy options eating out

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Dec 16, 2008

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: I know you make a green smoothie and take it to work in a quart jar.   But what about when you get up late, don’t have time, and you’re out in town and STARVING?   What do you eat?


Answer:   Here, locally (Utah County), my favorite thing to do is go to New York Burrito at about 1600 N. State, Orem.   Get a vegetarian wrap on a whole-wheat tortilla.   Skip the white rice (they don’t have brown rice, but mention that you hope they start using it).   Instead, get lots of black beans.   (They don’t salt their black beans.)   Then ask for TONS of extra romaine and tomatoes, and have some onions (and guacamole and salsa) for plenty of RAW.   You’re out the door for under $5 and 5 minutes, with a whole-food lunch that tastes great–and New York Burrito doesn’t even cater to the health conscious.


You can look around for healthy options like this and know where to head on a day you’re crazy-busy.   If you’re in Springville, anything you get at Ginger’s is really tasty and also raw and really nutritious.  


If I’m in a sit-down restaurant with friends, I try to avoid Mexican and Chinese, because they rarely have a lot of raw ingredients.   And I mostly stick to salads.   Ask for special things in it–like, skip the chicken, please, and give me extra spring greens and lentils instead, or whatever.


At Pizza Factory, I get pasta and veggies–only the pasta I order is actually the steamed yellow squash noodles (this dish is fantastic with any sauce).   And instead of going to the salad bar where the lettuce is iceberg, I ask them to bring me a plate of romaine and build my salad from there.   (Iceberg lettuce is nutritionally pointless; darker greens are so much better for you.   Every time I do this in a restaurant, everyone else at the table does it, too.)


Any tips you have for each other would be appreciated.

Posted in: Nutrition, Reader Letters, Robyn Recommends

7 thoughts on “healthy options eating out”

Leave a Comment
  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn,

    Sorry, this has nothing to do with eathing out… I am looking for help or advice on making my own bread. I’ve been trying off and on since I started GSG and haven’t had any luck yet. My bread resembles bricks rather than bread! I’ve been using the total blender to make the flour and I’m considering the kitchen mill. Can you please help with some advice.

    Thank you,


  2. Anonymous says:

    What about making the smoothie the night before? I find I have to prepare my days a day ahead in order to eat well.

  3. Danette, bread it a tricky thing. Have you tried adding gluten and lecithin or brown rice extract? Generally dense bread is either too much water, too much flour, or not enough kneading. You might play with the ratio, decreasing the water or flour by 1/2 c. Because ww flour is different than white, your dough will still be a bit sticky when it’s kneading, so don’t worry about the smooth ball you got using white flour.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I found this article very interesting! Definately something to chew on and new to me. I guess I am not so sure what to think.

    Iceberg Lettuce: A Lesson In Nutrient Density

    March 21, 2008

    You can read an online copy of this newsletter here.

    Greetings Everyone!

    It has been a very busy 2 weeks as I was out on the road giving 5 presentations around the state of Florida. All of them were very well attended and I enjoyed meeting and spending time with everyone at these events.

    While out on the road giving presentations, I always leave time at the end for Q &A’s as I love helping people understand all the misinformation and myths about health that are out there.

    One of the most common myths and misunderstandings in nutrition is about the nutritional value and worthiness of iceberg lettuce. I am always amazed to see peoples’ faces when I tell them that iceberg lettuce is a good food.

    I have heard many doctors, dietitians and other health professionals tell people that they should avoid consuming iceberg lettuce because it has no nutrients, is empty calories, and is basically the equivalent of a junk food. Instead, we are told to choose dark green lettuces, like romaine lettuce and/or leaf lettuce, as they are nutritionally rich.

    Well known celebrities even repeat these same sentiments. In restaurants I frequently see people refuse to eat their salads because they are made from iceberg lettuce.

    Is this really so? Is iceberg lettuce really a junk food? Does it have no nutritional value?

    This week, let’s take a closer look at these allegations and see if any of them are actually true.

    Iceberg Lettuce: A Lesson In Nutrient Density

    The best way to analyze a food is by nutrient density. Nutrient density is defined as a ratio of nutrient content (in grams) to the total energy content (in calories). According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, nutrient-dense foods are those foods that provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories.

    The formula would look like this:

    ND = N/C

    ND= Nutrient Density

    N= Nutrient Content


    The nutrient density of any food can be calculated for a single nutrient (i.e., calcium) or for the overall nutrient density. I prefer to look at the overall nutrient density of a food as this gives us a better picture of how well a foods overall nutrient composition meets the nutrient requirements of the human body. By defining nutrient density this way, a nutrient-dense food is a food that delivers a complete nutritional package.

    So, let’s look at the nutrient density of iceberg lettuce as compared to romaine lettuce. To make the comparison easy and equal, I will compare the nutrients in terms of 100 calories of each. I will list each of the common nutrients and below it, will record the value for romaine lettuce (RL) and then the value for iceberg lettuce (IL), respectively.

    In addition, I will list what percentage of the Dietary Reference Intakes/Recommended Dietary Allowance (DRI/RDA) that equals. For some nutrients the DRI/RDA varies depending on gender and age. When this is the case, I will just use the higher value to make things easier on me (and tougher on the comparison.)

    Here is an example of the model we will use.

    Nutrient (DRI/RDA)

    RL = Romaine Lettuce (% DRI/RDA)

    IL = Iceberg Lettuce (% DRI/RDA)

    “Lettuce” begin! 🙂

    Protein (56 grams)

    RL 7.2 grams (13%)

    IL 6.4 grams (11%)


    RL: 1.8 grams

    IL: 1.0 grams

    Fiber (38 grams)

    RL: 12.4 grams (33%)

    IL: 8.8 grams (23%)

    Vitamin A (3000 IU)

    RL: 34170 IU (1139%)

    IL: 3585 IU ( 119%)

    Folate (400 mcg)

    RL: 1007 mcg (250%)

    IL: 800 mcg (200%)

    Vitamin B1 (1.2 mg)

    RL: .42 mg (35%)

    IL: .29 mg (24%)

    Vitamin B2 (1.3 mg)

    RL: .39 mg (30%)

    IL: .18 mg (14%)

    Vitamin B3 (16 mg)

    RL: 1.8 mg (11%)

    IL: .88 mg (5%)

    Vitamin B5 (5 mg)

    RL: .84 mg (17%)

    IL: .65 (13%)

    Vitamin B6 (1.7 mg)

    RL: .44 mg (26%)

    IL: .30 mg (18%)

    Vitamin C (90 mg)

    RL: 141 mg (156%)

    IL: 200 mg (222%)

    Vitamin E (15 mg)

    RL: .76 mg (5%)

    IL: 1.3 mg (9%)

    Vitamin K (120 mcg)

    RL: 603 mcg (500%)

    IL: 172 mcg (143%)

    Calcium (1200)

    RL: 194 mg (16%)

    IL: 128 mg (11%)

    Copper (.9 mg)

    RL: .28 mg (31%)

    IL: .18 mg (20%)

    Iron (18)

    RL: 5.7 mgs (32%)

    IL: 2.9 mgs (16%)

    Magnesium (420)

    RL: 82. mgs (20%)

    IL: 50. mgs (12%)

    Manganese (2.3 mgs)

    RL: .91 mgs (40%)

    IL: .89 mgs (38%)

    Phosphorus (700 mg)

    RL: 176 mgs (25%)

    IL: 143 mgs (20%)

    Potassium (4700 mg)

    RL: 1453 mgs (31%)

    IL: 1007 mgs (21%)

    Selenium (55 mcg)

    RL: 2.4 mcg (4%)

    IL: .71 mcg (1%)

    Zinc (11 mg)

    RL: 1.3 mg (12%)

    IL: 1.1 mg (10%)

    Omega 3s (1.6 mg)

    RL: .66 gm (41%)

    IL: .37 gm (23%)

    Omega 6s

    RL: .28 gm

    IL: .15 gm

    There are the numbers. Not only are the numbers eye-opening and enlightening, we can learn several things from them.

    First, as we can see, compared to romaine lettuce, which is a known nutrient dense food, iceberg lettuce is almost as nutrient dense. While romaine contains higher levels of most nutrients, iceberg is not far behind. Not only does it contain a wide variety of nutrients, it is also a good source of many of them. On a per calorie comparison, iceberg lettuce has almost as much of many nutrients as does romaine lettuce

    Second, for the same calories as romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce has more Vitamin C and more Vitamin E.

    Third, 100 calories of iceberg lettuce exceeds the DRI/RDA for Vitamin A, Folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and has almost 1/4 the recommended intake of the omega 3 essential fatty acid.

    Now, this does not mean you have to consume 100 calories of iceberg lettuce at a meal or each day or even consume any of it at all? No. I only used the 100 calorie value as it was a simple number to use to make a fair comparison of both.

    In fact, you do not have to consume any iceberg lettuce at all. Personally, I prefer the taste of romaine lettuce. But, if you enjoy iceberg lettuce, and/or if it is the only lettuce available at a restaurant, just realize that it that it is a nutrient dense food, almost as nutrient dense as romaine. And, it is not a junk food, and not to be shunned.

    To put all of this in a more realistic perspective relative to the DRI/RDAs and a more usual serving, a 25 calorie serving of iceberg lettuce (which is the standard serving of a vegetable) provides:

    6% of Fiber, B1, B6 and Vitamin C,

    30% of Vitamin A,

    13% of Folate,

    36% of Vitamin K,

    9% of Iron,

    10% of Manganese,

    5% of Copper, Phosphors and Potassium, and

    6% of Omega 3s.

    Not bad for a junk food. 🙂

    Enjoy it!

    We live in an interesting society. We consume hundreds if not thousands of calories of junk fund without even batting an eye, each day. Yet, at the same time, we shun many healthy foods based on misinformation and myths. Iceberg lettuce is a healthy food. Not only is it fairly high in nutrient density, it is very low in calorie density. Yet, somehow it gets relegated to the level of junk food.

    Go figure.

    In the next newsletter we will look at a very unhealthy food that somehow or other has become known as a health food, even amongst the health food crowd.

    Go figure, again! Till then…

    Have another great week, and remember…

    Your Health Is Still Your Greatest Wealth!

    In Health,


  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing the iceberg lettuce with us. I want crisp crunch in my salad so I always mix romaine, or other lettuce with iceberg lettuce. I really love the iceberg better than any, so thanks for the heads up.

  6. http:// says:

    Interesting. I would never go so far as to say iceberg is junk food. Doritos are junk food. Iceberg is just more likely to contain chemicals, and lower in GREEN (i.e., micronutrients)–and I don’t entirely trust the nutritional information given in that article. But if you love it, eat some–just eat greener foods more that you do now.


  7. Anonymous says:

    In my opinion, romaine is certainly not the target in terms of nutrient density. I’d say it falls on the middle of the scale, which would put iceberg on the low end. Unfortunately, most people don’t eat quantities of anything darker and greener than romaine.

    I recently did a quick comparison (eyeballing only) of iceberg, green cabbage, romaine, and kale using While each food has different nutrients that it really shines in, there’s a definite difference in nutrient density as you move from iceberg, to green cabbage, to romaine, then kale. It seems to me that kale is at least as superior to romaine as romaine is to iceberg.

    So, if we change our focus and make a DARK leafy green like kale or spinach the target, then romaine becomes the poor substitute. And where does that even leave iceberg lettuce? Remember, we’re talking about maximizing our nutrition with moderate effort and cost. I don’t plan on spending my grocery money on iceberg lettuce and certainly wouldn’t be happy paying $7 at a restaurant for a salad made of it.

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