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Calorie Confusion

While in Boston we had Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast one day because evidently all restaurants in Boston are Dunkin’ Donuts. That’s one of the funny things about traveling, you start to realize how regional some store chains are. While Boston might be caught in the donut hole center of Dunkin’ Donuts’ stranglehold on early morning pastries, we don’t have any Dunkin’ Donuts in Indianapolis that I know of. Their web site’s store locator confirms there are no stores within a 50 mile radius. Krispy Kreme’s web site only lists one store on the south side, which makes me wonder, where the hell are all our donut stores? The recent obesity statistics makes it sound like the Midwest is populated only by fat-assed people whose body composition is 2% frosting. You’d think there’d be a donut cart on every corner to prevent rioting. (Tangent: Kripsy Kreme now has football doughnuts! I think they’re so cute, and I’m the person who gets stuck in traffic on game days wondering “Is there some sort of event going on?”)

Back in Boston, I decided to have a blueberry muffin, though it turned into one and a half blueberry muffins. No, I’m not Jesus multiplying fish and bread for the masses. (Though how popular would that make me at parties? Who needs a caterer with skills like that?) I just cut the 2nd muffin my brother fetched for us in half. Without having access to nutritional information, it seemed like the best choice.

When I came home I decided to check how many calories were in it, because I evidently never heard that expression “Ignorance is bliss.” The amount of happiness I experienced by discovering Dunkin’ Donuts provided all the information in an easy-to-find location on their web site was nothing compared to the horror I felt when I discovered my 1.5 muffins contained 705 calories. Day-am. I then looked at the info for my real fave, the Chocolate Kreme Filled Donut and discovered I could have had 2.6 of those for the same calorie cost. I know fat and carbohydrates and trans-fats and the serving size etc. also play a part in how good these foods are for you, but I couldn’t help thinking I should have just gotten what I’d really wanted, though the muffin was delicious as well.

Later, at the airport I bought a little bottle of grapefruit juice to drink before I got on the plane since just as all restaurants in Boston are Dunkin’ Donuts, all liquids on planes are now bombs. I usually avoid juices, but when you’re travel-weary and have only the contents of the food court to select from, you can’t be picky. When I looked at the nutritional information for that I was surprised that a little 10 or 12 oz bottle contained 170 calories. Day-am squared.

Isn’t it odd that some foods have a “healthy” connotation associated with them when they can be just as bad for you in some ways as the “junk” food? I know Subway restaurants really capitalize on this. Sure, a veggie sandwich can be very good for you, but if you pile on lots of cheese, mayo, and dressing, you’re probably not doing much better than if you’d ordered off the dollar menu at McDonalds.

It reminds me of my high school days when teachers would usually assume the smart kids with the good grades were also moral pillars of the community, but in reality they were up to the same shit as their peers. Senior year my humanities class went on a camping trip on our teacher’s farm which was educational only because I learned what pot smelled like. It was the site for such debauchery that the trip was cancelled for the next four years, a period of time long enough that everyone at the school who might have heard about it would have graduated. Who was it that brought the booze and the pot? The straight-A kids. One of the main planners actually made it on Teen Jeopardy!

So don’t be fooled by the muffins and juices of the world with their good PR. Read your nutritional information!

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Anne • September 27, 2006 at 3:12 pm

Scary isn’t it. In a donut shop, I always grab the donut cause it’s less points (doing Weight Watchers) than the muffin or the bagel. And juice! I love it, but can’t do the calories.


Mymsie • September 27, 2006 at 4:27 pm

Wonder what the straight-A potsters and boozers are up to these days? Probably working at Dunkin Donuts.


K • September 27, 2006 at 4:58 pm

Do you give advice to newbie South Beachers? Having a little trouble over here. I’m day-am impressed with your progress and tenacity. Your writing/wit also makes me feel like an idiot!


thisquietlife • September 27, 2006 at 5:25 pm

For the first time in my life, I look at calories and carb counts and it drives me insane!!!

Ignorance truly is (dangerously) blissful!!


crankybee • September 27, 2006 at 6:05 pm

There’s a fantastic story inthe Sydney Morning Herald about how children are better off eating a Mars Bar than a Muesli bar for breakfast!


I also laugh at things like “Fruit Roll Ups” (I’m assuming you have similiar things in the US) DO parents really believe it’s got FRUIT in any valuable amount in it!!!???

Anyhow, there’s my rant.


Greta • September 27, 2006 at 6:08 pm

Yeah. If they renamed muffins “cake”, then maybe we’d “get it” that muffins are high calorie like other sweets. Have you ever carried muffins in a paper bag and seen the oil stain?

Well, I have fallen for those very same innocent-looking but evil foods myself and what the heck are you going to do if your family ends up t Dunkin Donuts? You don’t get far on black coffee alone. Despite the muffins and juice, you did GREAT on your trip!


Hilly • September 27, 2006 at 6:18 pm

I remember the day that I realized I could have two donuts for the price of a muffin. I don’t trust any of those pastries in any Starbucks or anywhere else, LOL.


Milana • September 27, 2006 at 7:10 pm

There are 5 dunkin donuts (count them! 5!) in my 5 sq mile town, and everyone in my town knows that the “low fat” blueberry muffin is actually the worst thing on the menu, at 800 calories……..its disgusting lol


Amy • September 27, 2006 at 10:32 pm

These days, muffins are really just small round cakes. Maybe at one time they were made healthier and that’s how they got the reputation of being healthy?

I don’t think it’s fair to measure the healthiness of a food by the calorie content alone. Yes, 170 calories is a lot for a small bottle of juice, but along with those 170 calories, you’re also consuming vitamins and minerals that you wouldn’t likely find in a donut. Of course, you’re probably best off eating a 170 calorie grapefruit. The fiber would slow down the rate the sugar hits your bloodstream and keep you satisfied longer.


Jan Bridge • September 27, 2006 at 10:54 pm

Oh yes – those masquerading calories! You did make the best possible choice however! One of the ‘hints’ that I have found very helpful is, “If you have a favorite restaurant or fast food emporium, learn the menu and know what is the best option for you.”

I LOVE the fact that most of the known restaurants provide nutritional analysis on line for at least some of their entrées. There are a number of favorite locations on the east coast and in the midwest that are not available here in CA – I often spend some time before travelling, reading menus and planning personal strategies in advance.

Question, PastaQueen – have you considered doing a South Beach ‘re-set’? Your posts about Boston mention a number of carbs and fat saturated foods. With your birthday just a quick month away, it might be helpful for you to take a couple of weeks in Phase One – to flush the carbs and fat and re-gain your focus.


Mark • September 28, 2006 at 6:36 am

All sweet beverages (cola, juices) have more or less the same calories: 150 or so for 12 oz, 210 or so for 16 oz, etc.

Baked goods, with the butter and shortening, just don’t seem worth it to me if you’re on a diet. You be much more satisfied with some ice cream at half the calories.


Marla • September 28, 2006 at 7:20 am

I’ve had some truly horrible shocks when I found out the “nutritional” values for some food, and it’s especially irritating when you think you’ve made a reasonable choice only to discover that it’s the worst junk on the menu. With any food you don’t prepare yourself, you have to assume the worst! I have to tell you, even though I love donuts (who doesn’t) I absolutely COULD NOT eat that for breakfast! I would be sick to my stomach and have a headache all day. Too many years of eating healthy food, and you can no longer function in the real world. ;-)


lulu • September 28, 2006 at 8:04 am

My dieting theory which is mine, ahem, is that it is a sad life if you can’t have a donut, or in my case a doughnut, occasionally, and that it actually reassures your system that you are not facing a famine. Especially on holiday, when sampling the local delights has to include food! Looking at home-baking recipes it looks as if muffins contain a lower proportion of egg and sugar compared with cakes, and part oil instead of all-butter. Right, now I’m going to have to go and bake some.


BethK • September 28, 2006 at 11:29 am

I live smack in the heart of Dunkin’ Donuts country. It’s a cult. Seriously. People get cranky if they have to drive more than five minutes to get a coffee. Every year I Fed-X my sister in L.A. a pound of coffee and a jelly doughnut for her birthday. They opened two Krispy Kremes in the Boston area to much wailing about what would happen to our beloved DD’s. One of the KK’s has since closed and the other one is on life support. (Heh…)

For almost a year I had a DD coffeecake muffin for breakfast when what I really wanted was sausage, egg, and cheese on an english. And you guessed it… I could have had the cholesterol special for fewer calories and just a couple more grams of fat. They do make low-fat blueberry muffins, btw. (When you can find them…)


Haystacks • September 28, 2006 at 11:38 am

The Muffin is particularly heinous, packing in more calories per square inch than any other food.


A big mac is roughly 650 calories

Your basic muffin is roughly 700



Susan • September 28, 2006 at 12:26 pm

My Mother-in-law made a dessert this weekend- Doughnut-pudding- It has 2 dozen KK dougnuts, 3 cans of sweetened condensed milk, a pound of powdered sugar, peaches, and fruit cocktail- It about took my head off and also ran the scale up 2 pounds!


Janice Bridge • September 28, 2006 at 1:25 pm

OMG Susan -what a recipe!!!! Is your mother-in-law related to my aunt Bernice?

CONSERVATIVE estimate of that recipe is 10,600 calories and 400 grams of fat. Even if we assume that one portion is 1/24 of this pudding (based on one doughnut per serving) – that is 440 calories and 17 grams of fat! And my gues it that M-i-L thinks that 1/12 is a better serving size!!!


PastaQueen • September 28, 2006 at 1:43 pm

Susan – Do you have a good relationship with your mother-in-law? If not, I think she might be trying to kill you :)


Laura • September 28, 2006 at 7:02 pm

Must be a regional thing. I’ve lived several places in the South (both Dixie/Deep South and in the Appalachians), and the preference has been strongly tilted in favor of Krispy Kremes. Some Dunkin Donuts, but not many–except in Florida, where the distribution was about equal (as one might expect:-)

The wonderful thing about Krispy Kreme is that some of them are OPEN 24 HRS! And there’s the little red flashing light that lets you know there’s a fresh batch coming!!!

(Can you tell I had my first Krispy Kreme at about 2 AM during a college study binge?)

I have to admit I like DD’s coffee better, though. FAB-U-LOUS.


K • October 2, 2006 at 5:38 pm

705 calories?

Heavens to Betsy.


Ruth • June 21, 2008 at 11:58 am

Just for the very late record. In airports I usually buy almonds and dark chocolate to snack on. SB allows 90 calories of the dark chocolate and 15 almonds. I find them in the newsstands of most airports.


Jenn with 2 enns • December 31, 2008 at 11:01 pm

@Ruth –

Great suggestion, Ruth! A good one to remember!


Dana • August 1, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Nice, but caloric information is not nutritional information. A calorie is not a nutrient. It’s just a gentleman’s agreement among most people who care about such things that they will measure the energy content of a food in just this way so that everyone is on the same page conversationally and scientifically.

In any case, even if a calorie were a real thing, what kind of calorie we’re talking about in a food kind of matters. A hundred calories of sugar does something very different to me than a hundred calories of butter would. Sugar spikes my insulin and butter doesn’t. Insulin locks my energy inside my fat cells and if it stays elevated, doesn’t let that energy back out for me to use. So I get fat, and I’m malnourished as well.

I wouldn’t have taken the muffin *or* the donut, personally, and it’s not about being virtuous, but just about not wanting to commit slow suicide. I’ve had my decades-long carb binge, thank you, and I was lucky to get off light with only a bit over a hundred extra pounds on my 5’6″ frame. My mom’s much worse off even when you take into account the three or four extra inches in height. I feel like a goose walked over my grave. She’s diabetic, too.

No way would I eat a Subway veggie sub without some kind of oil or fat on it. You can’t get maximum nutritional benefit from the carotenes in plants if you don’t eat fat to help you assimilate them. The cheese would be an easy source of calcium, which while I don’t know that we need as much calcium as the experts say, I do know we need some in our diet. I think that even in the case of muffin vs. donut, presuming the muffin had real blueberries in it, I think I still would have picked it even with the higher calories. Why? Blueberries, chica. Blueberries versus the empty calories of donut and cream filling. The chocolate may have had some nutrition to it, but it wouldn’t have had much.

Which is not quite the same as saying Fruit Roll-Ups are healthy. You don’t grind blueberries up and strip them of their nutritive value to put them into muffins, you just throw them in whole. But yeah, I look at carb content and micronutrient content and compare foods that way. I’d rather get more nutrition in fewer servings as well as keeping my insulin down.

Changed my link slightly, it’s a post I wrote last night. It might interest you.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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