The Best & Worst Food Trends of 2010

Want to know the world’s greatest weight-loss tip? It’s KISS. No, not the creepy 1970s rock band that dons makeup and sells Dr. Pepper. It’s an anagram: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Simple foods tend to have the fewest additional calories and the healthiest ingredients. Problem is, the biggest trend in American restaurants this year has been to make their meals more complicated than Kim Kardashian’s love life. Over and over, food marketers have demonstrated that they can’t leave well enough alone. From deep-frying pasta to turning simple salads into adventures in caloric chaos, I’ve broken down some of the most deeply disturbing turns in American food culture, circa 2010. And as the New Year emerges, you can find up-to-the-minute new developments in the food universe (and plenty of weight-loss secrets) when you

It’s not all bad news, though. A lot has changed to our food supply and policies since we first published Eat This, Not That! in late 2007. Some of these changes have made eating healthy foods easier than ever, while others (mentioned above) continue to put industry interests in front of our collective need to slim down. Here we’ve rounded up the best and worst food trends of 2010.

(Also, don’t miss our other year-end walk down the Restaurant Hall of Shame: The 20 Worst Foods of 2010.)Worst Food Trend #5: Chips as CondimentHow do you turn a vegetarian sandwich into a crunchy calorie-bomb? Fill it with tortilla chips. That’s the recipe Blimpie uses to create their Special Vegetarian sub. Or what they could also call the Doritos Sub, since the sandwich is built on a bed of the crumbled nacho-cheese-flavored chips. Unfortunately, consumers are likely to enjoy this creation—the chips add addictive crunch, salt, and flavor—which will only encourage more products like it. And that’s bad news since just one of these 12-inch subs delivers 1,180 calories (three meals’ worth) and 3,540 milligrams of sodium (two days’ worth). Blimpie isn’t the only restaurant to use chips as a condiment. The Cheesecake Factory is now serving a Double-Cheese Crunch Burger—which is aptly named after its “condiment” of crunchy potato crisps.

A Trend We Like: The War on Sodium-Soaked FoodsNot all condiment trends are moving in the wrong direction. In May 2010, Heinz lowered the amount of sodium in its ketchup by 15 percent. This move coincided with New York City’s shakedown on salt, in which the city’s health department is putting pressure on food manufacturers and restaurants to cut back on the sodium in their products. Protect yourself, though, by avoiding this shocking list of The Saltiest Foods in America. Your heart will thank you.Worst Food Trend #4: Deep-Fried PastaA few years ago, restaurants started moving away from fried foods. But that trend seems to be reversing. Take the Lasagna Fritta appetizer now offered at Olive Garden. It’s parmesan-breaded lasagna that’s been deep-fried and served with Alfredo sauce. At 1,030 calories, it’s now the second-highest-calorie starter on Olive Garden’s menu (behind the 1,180-calorie Chicken Alfredo Pizza). Sure, deep-fried appetizers such as calamari and mozzarella sticks have been on restaurant menus for years. But all-new items like this lasagna—and the deep-fried mac and cheese at Cheesecake Factory—aren’t a sign of good things to come. A Trend We Like: Restaurants Providing Healthier ChoicesUntil last year, Romano’s Macaroni Grill was a perennial frontrunner for our title of The Worst Restaurant in America. But this year, Mac Grill slimmed down its entrees, and added two new menu sections——Mediterranean Grill and Amore de la Grill—both of which offer sensible-sized meals, including the 294-calorie Jumbo Shrimp Spiedini. It’s an initiative that’s gaining steam: Applebee’s (a 550-calorie menu), Outback (order any entrée “light style” for less than 500 calories), and IHOP (the under-600-calorie Simple & Fit menu) have followed as well.Worst Food Trend #3: The 1,000-Calorie (Plus!) SaladRemember when salads were the one menu item you could always rely on to be healthy? Well, times have changed. At last count, we found 10 salads—from restaurant chains such as Applebee’s, On the Border, and California Pizza Kitchen—that contained more than 1,000 calories. In fact, ordering a salad at a sit-down restaurant can now be far worse than ordering a double hamburger from the drive-thru. Case in point: T.G.I. Friday’s Santa Fe Chopped Salad, which delivers 1,800 calories. Now that’s what we call a whopper. To make sure you’re not fooled, check out this year’s definitive list of 20 Salads Worse than a Whopper. How bad will they get in 2011? Let’s see. A Trend We Like: The Menu Transparency MovementThis year, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, and IHOP finally made the calorie counts of their menu items public, thanks in part to incessant prodding from Eat This, Not That! (Which might explain their healthier menus, too.) It should get even better from here: Starting next year, any restaurant chain with 20 or more outlets must print calorie information alongside items on menus, menu boards, and drive-thru signs. Worst Food Trend #2: Ice Cream for BreakfastEarlier this year, Friendly’s started topping pancakes and French toast with ice cream—a menu move that’s anything but friendly to your waistline. The restaurant chain’s most abominable creation: Caramel Swirl French Toast. It’s a large cinnamon roll—prepared French-toast style—that’s served with cream cheese, warm-caramel topping, whipped topping, and, of course, maple syrup ice cream. All told, this disastrous dish packs 2,090 calories and 214 grams of sugar. That’s all the calories you need in an entire day, and more sugar than you’ll find in a two-liter bottle of soda! A Trend We Like: The Can’t-Miss Breakfast MenuIn April 2010, Subway pushed its low-cal breakfast lineup nationwide. Here’s why that’s exciting: The “worst” item on the menu is a still-reasonable 560 calories. And if you order one of the Muffin Melts, you’ll top out at 220 calories. Hopefully, more restaurants will start to mimic this strategy. Until then, make sure you don’t order one of these 12 terrible fast-food breakfasts—which also explains what to eat instead.Worst Food Trend #1: Outrageous New Food CreationsEver have trouble choosing between a pizza and a burger? Well, the execs at Burger King have solved your dilemma: the New York Pizza Burger. It’s a 9½-inch pizza, topped with a burger, bacon, and bun. And at an astonishingly awful 2,530 calories, it’s one of the worst dishes in America. While the Pizza Burger is only available in New York for now, the concept of combining popular foods is an ever-growing (and calorically calamitous) trend. For example: Dunkin’ Donuts recently introduced Pancake Bites (sausages wrapped in maple-favorite pancakes), and Denny’s is selling a Fried Cheese Melt—a classic grilled cheese sandwich that has extra cheese, in the form of fried Mozzarella sticks. Our advice: Just eat one food at a time.

A Trend We Like: People Are Cooking MoreThe recession is bad for our pocketbooks, but it could be good for our health. That’s because 60 percent of Americans are cooking more of their meals at home, according to a new Mintel survey. Think of it this way: As your number of home-cooked meals increases, your fast-food visits decrease. And USDA scientists found that people eat 500 more calories on days they consume fast foods compared with the days they don’t. What’s more, University of Minnesota researchers determined that consuming more ready-prepared meals and more meals away from home may have a negative impact on overall health. Not sure where to start? Check out our newest Cook This, Not That! book, Cook This, Not That! 350-Calorie Meals. You’ll save time, calories and cash—while still eating all of your favorite (and delicious) foods!

EAT RIGHT RULE: If your food can go bad, it’s good for you. If it can’t go bad, it’s bad for you. and get FREE health, nutrition and weight-loss wisdom every day! You’ll drop weight faster than ever–without ever dieting!

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