In light of the recent publication, and rapid rise atop the bestseller list, of Eat This, Not That, I thought it would be salient to help expose some of the ostensibly fraudulent claims of massive chain restaurants, and how you can make better decisions if you decide to eat there. The book uses 304 pages to give you specific recommendations of what to order and what to avoid at the most common restaurants in America.

Here are some of the more amazing – and terrifying – revelations by the book’s two authors, David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding. For example, Jamba Juice’s Chocolate Moo’d Power smoothie (30 oz) has 900 calories and 166 grams of sugar! Are you freaking kidding me? Next: Chili’s trademark appetizer – the Awesome Blossom. You know the one – mounds upon mounds of battered and fried onions with their special sauce. Well, that appetizer alone is 2,710 calories, including 203 grams of fat. That’s more than most men need in an entire day.

College kids are meant to survive on diets of pizza and beer. If you are one of those who actually fit the stereotype and find yourself having memorized Domino’s number, here’s some advice. A slice of the deep-dish pizza with pepperoni has almost double the calories – 390 – of the thin crust pizza’s 235. Men’s Health magazine’s Web site,, dubs Domino’s “weapon of mass destruction” to be their cheesy bread, which has an astounding 1,560 calories. You might as well order a heart attack while you’re at it. Just kidding, the body is more resilient than one thinks. It can take a lot of abuse.

Did you know the Asian Salad with Crispy Chicken at McDonald’s has more calories – 430 – than the 510 in the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. The shockers are endless. If you find yourself frequenting restaurants like these and feeling guilty or weighed down by your eating decisions, I will very cautiously recommend you purchase the book.

For those of you who obsess over monitoring your weight, counting calories is a convenient way to make sure you take in less than you burn. To roughly calculate the number of calories you burn at rest – i.e. if you didn’t move all day – multiply your body weight by 11 if you are a man and 9.9 if you are a woman. I hope to God you burn more calories than that a day, though.

I cautiously recommended the book because a book like this only serves to encourage calorie counting. I am a passionate believer in eating for health and enjoyment, but only to the point of fullness. If you eat lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, counting calories is fruitless, because you will be full way before you reach your threshold. When scientists ask the French when they know to stop eating, they say, logically, “When I am full.” When scientists ask Americans the same question, we say, stupidly, “When the plate is empty” or “When the TV show I am watching is finished.” Eating past the point of satiety might be the American way, but it’s also idiotic.

Counting calories can become a dangerous obsession, and it can take the fun out of eating. Food is meant to be enjoyed, often with other people. Obsessing over the number of calories in food and perpetually depriving yourself of food that makes you happy will fail in the long run. That’s why even the most ardent nutritionists advise you to eat what you love the most at least once a week, even if it is the 2,710 calorie Awesome Blossom from Chili’s.

If you are going to frequent restaurants like McDonald’s and Chili’s, try to make smarter decisions without forcing yourself to eat something you don’t like. If you can get into the habit of reading nutrition labels, you will find yourself gravitating towards healthier foods. Eating foods laden with chemicals and processed ingredients simply is not healthy. Most big restaurants make it extremely difficult to access nutritional information because they know the consumer simply doesn’t want to know. But if you are motivated, the information is out there, and it can help you lead a healthier life. Be wary of overdoing it, though, or it could turn into a dangerous obsession.