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Posts Tagged ‘eating on the go’

I am a graphic designer. That means that I layout projects that end up being printed as posters, brochures, postcards and more. I do this with a great team of people and 4 times a year we produce a brochure we call our Quarterly. When the Quarterly is on press, one of the designers goes on a press check, which means we go to the printers and look at the sheets as they come off the press and approve the printing and the color. Our Quarterly happens to be printed near a Panera, so we do lunch from Panera each time we’re on press. Today I tried to Eat Like Alton, even spent time thinking about it in advance. This was going to be a great time to get in some leafy greens (on the everyday list) and I recall at one point having a salad there with salmon and wheat berries – double score (oily fish and whole grains). This was going to be a breeze. Then I looked at the menu.

While all the salad descriptions sounded good at first pass, they were all basic variations on romaine lettuce with chicken. Some came with bacon, some with almonds, one even comes with a drizzle of “BBQ sauce”. (Ewww.) With the exception of one (Fuji Apple Chicken) they all are made with romaine lettuce. I know everyone isn’t trying to Eat Like Alton, but isn’t everyone into organic and micro greens and variety. I was surprised to find all of their salads so…normal and average. But, it is tradition and I needed to get leafy greens in, so I chose the Chopped Chicken Cobb salad. Here’s how my thought process went: I don’t like red peppers, I don’t want tasty crispy wontons to tempt me, BBQ sauce on salad sounds gross, caesar is usually good IF the dressing is good and I don’t want apples in my salad…Chopped Chicken Cobb it is. Looking back, I should have chosen Fuji Apple Chicken with fruit, nuts and leafy greens and just forced my way through the apples.

Then the salad came.

When I eat out, I like to eat things I can’t or won’t make at home. This salad was utterly disappointing. Salads I make at home look better. The lettuce was pale, the tomatoes were winter tomatoes (anemic and cold-tasting, not juicy and summer-tasting), the eggs were rubbery and the dressing was pretty ordinary. Come on Panera, I know your called Panera Bread not Panera Salad, but you can do better than this. Toss in some other greens – spinach would be easy as would chopped herbs; use thicker bacon; toss in some avocado; make salad dressing that doesn’t taste like it comes out of a vat; and have some other protein options…chicken gets boring, especially chicken that looks like the precooked chicken they sell in any grocery store.

I’m pretty sure in the past I have had good salads at Panera, even great ones. I’m not sure when the menu change happened, but I’m hoping it is seasonal or a temporary thing due to the economy. When I get a salad at a restaurant, I want it to be bright, bursting with flavor and freshness. I want to feel healthy eating it and I want to feel better about myself because I made a better food choice while I have to watch other people eating a burger and fries. And I want good tomatoes. Is that too much to ask?

Normally I wouldn’t think of Panera as fast food, to me fast food is fried and has a drive-through. But my salad today makes me wonder if this is bad food karma for crossing the ‘never’ line.

(This photo is 1/2 of the salad, I’m saving the other 1/2 for lunch tomorrow. And yes, I do often eat at my computer and yeah, it’s a Mac!)

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It’s school vacation week here. I spent one of our vacation days taking my son to the planetarium and as I was driving home I spent some time thinking about how Eating Like Alton compared to the way I would have eaten in the past. Here’s a comparison:

On the way down I stopped at Cumberland Farms for coffee. You can see my earlier post about how I like my coffee, so I was off to a bad start, but my son reminded me that I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet and that I should get something to eat.

ELA choice: Coffee with cream and sugar & a Fiber One bar
Past choice: Coffee with cream and sugar and at least 2 donuts and maybe some candy

There was a cafe at the Planetarium with a full range of sandwiches, pastries, pizza, sodas, etc. After a little exploring, I chose

ELA choice: a chicken salad wrap with lettuce and tomato, a bag of Terra Chips and a bottle of water
Past choice: a reuben panini, a bag of Lays chips and a bottle of Coke

After the planetarium we stopped by the mall for a quick clothing exchange.

ELA choice: nothing
Past choice: another coffee from Dunkin Donuts, quite possibly a donut, or a cookie or pretzel from another food court vendor.

Then we stopped at Target to get some Method cleaner (this is the BEST stuff). It was getting late in the day at this point and I was weighing our dinner options. We were about to drive down a strip with all the fast food options imaginable, which of course is on the NEVER list. So, at Target we…

ELA choice: Kashi TLC Fruit & Grain Bars in Dark Chocolate Coconut and a bottle of water
Past choice: 10 piece chicken nuggets, large fries and a Coke at McHorrible

Then, if I’m being honest, I probably would have stopped in at a gas station or another fast food place and gotten another Coke or coffee and candy or a bag of chips or something else horrible. Instead we drove directly home, not stopping for snacks and feeling pretty great about it.

My conclusion was not that I was able to eat amazingly well and by the list, but that I ate dramatically better than I would have in the past and much, much less.

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