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Brand New Low Calorie….. Salads?

March 27, 2008

I work in downtown Chicago, so lunch generally finds me in any one of a million overpriced sandwich/soup/burrito/chines shops downtown. Today I stopped in Au Bon Pain (Pronounced Aww Bon Pan… though after today I think Pain may be more appropriate.)

While standing at the register I noticed some tiny little 4×4 takeout boxes that contained some lettuce and a few bite sized peices of chicken, what looked like tuna salad, and another that may have involved some kind of tomato…. mayonnaise… thing. There wasn’t very much food in them, so I wondered if they were some kind of antipasti plate or something (Corner Bakery, a similar place has those, they are quite tasty.)

It turns out no, while I was waiting for my food I saw a chalked sign, advertising their “New Salads!” 200 calories or less per serving. 200 calories or less. That explains why these salads (for around $4) looked like a few mouthfuls of something surrounded by lettuce. I’m sure they even suck out all the extra carbs in the air inside the package. At this point people are literally paying this company NOT to feed them.

For comparisons sake the 6′ Subway Subs are all over 200 calories except the vegetarian. (For obvious reasons.) And who gets a subway sub without at least some chips, or some apples… or something.

I know that it isn’t the first company to come out with diet diet diet foods just for you not at all fat people who are constantly starving themselves. (all of downtown Chicago) But the 200 calorie or less “salads” (which were so small I wouldn’t even keep them for leftovers) just pushed me over the edge today.

For the record, it’s only a salad if you employ MULTIPLE pieces of lettuce and maybe even go hog wild with some other ingredients. Otherwise, it’s just a piece of lettuce.

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  1. I get a veggie sub from Subway sans chips or apple, but that’s beside the point. I do find it odd that now there are even “diet” salads, since salad itself is usually considered to be a diet food.

    The hubby and I watch the horrible awful Janice Dickinson show from time to time. In a recent episode, she treated the models to dinner, in which they were served some outrageously low number of calories meal. Really, the meal was called the XX calorie meal, and featured only a few slivers of meat. I don’t know how they managed to even eat as Janice berated them for their weight and urged them to lose more. The ironic thing is that this was an upscale restaurant, and it probably cost a bundle.

  2. I don’t get ANY sub at Subway without cookies, because for some reason, even though they are a sub shop and not a cookie shop, their cookies are NOM. 🙂
    And really – paying more to eat less? If I’m only hungry enough for a little something, I’ll eat a granola bar at a fraction of the price, rather than pay double for something prescribed to me at under 200 calories.

  3. Visitor permalink

    I am offended that you label small-sized, overpriced salads as anorexic food. It contributes to the label that anorexic persons are rich and generally wasteful. What works for the dumb dieter niche does not warrant degradation of a group of people who are generally very shameful and secretive and who may not even be willing to eat food in public anyway.

  4. Visitor,
    I am concerned that corporations and restaurants continue to promote the smallest available servings of food ever, thus encouraging some people, who may or may not have eating disorders, to eat disturbingly small amounts of food as a “meal.” (And pay a premium price.) This article is in no way intended to disparage people who struggle with eating disorders, but to disparage companies who insist on creating food that encourages people to eat disorderedly. And I’m sorry if it came off otherwise.

  5. Stevie permalink

    I get a sub and cookies too. I never did like chips and I’m a horrible fruit snob (most food places serve red apples. Their texture make me upset and there is no tartness. sadness).

    This kind of reminds me of the commercial for some credit card. where the couple is spending all this money and effort getting into a really fancy resturant only to have the food be incredibly tiny. “its like elf food…” Then they go get random stuff at a convenience store in their fancy cloths. (sure they’re thinish reasonably well off white couple…but thats besides the point)

  6. I am offended that you label small-sized, overpriced salads as anorexic food. It contributes to the label that anorexic persons are rich and generally wasteful.

    I am a recovering anorexic and I did not get this impression. Nor have I heard the claim that anorexics are generally wasteful. And although there does exist a stereotype that anorexia mostly affects rich white girls, I don’t see that association being made here, either.

    And your use of the phrase “dumb dieter niche” rings eerily of the narcissism characteristic of anorexics. By this, I mean in the sense that many an anorexic feels superior to those mere mortals who need food to survive whereas she has the almighty willpower to live on air.

    The visitor doth protest too much?

  7. Having little experience with Anorexia myself I will defer to Rachel on this issue. (Wow, that was a stressful commute home in which I beat myself up for being a jerk. I’m relieved to find out that I am not yet reviled across the fatosphere.)

    I love that commercial. Though, “Elf Food” has a strange appeal to it. I think it would taste like Christmas!

  8. See, if I saw leetle portions like that marketed as “lunch for people on the go!” I would totally buy it. I love food, but if I eat at work (which is grad school) I’m feeling too nervous and harried to digest much, and saving half my lunch for later tends to make my office smell like nuoc mam.

    But a “200 calorie” portion annoys me for the same reason 100 calorie packs of snacks do – I don’t even really know what calories are, or how anyone knows exactly how many are in a pack (I like the idea that they suck the extra out of the air!), and (most importantly!) why I should wish to consume them in round numbers. Instead of advertising this portion as a convenience, it’s supposed to be a virtue – consume less energy! – and moralizing food choice sucks.
    Besides, if I were going to get a small side dish of something healthy, let it be, like… a bunch of edamame, a pasta salad with delicious wheat noodles, a couple of spring rolls. Lettuce can be involved, but lettuce is not brain food.

  9. bluerowan permalink

    i truly love the cadbury thins 100-calorie chocolate bars. they’re the perfect thickness to savor every bit. it just might occasionally take two of them. 😉

  10. sso permalink

    I’m anorexic and I have to admit, my first reaction was, “if i’m eating a salad, I’m not ‘wasting’ 200 calories on it.” I’ve been struggling for over a decade and in some of my darker moments, 200 calories was more than I’d eat in an entire day. Also, one my issues is not trusting others to prepare my food; I probably wouldn’t believe there were 200 calories or less, and I’d probably still prefer to make it myself so I know what went into it.

    The comment does rub me the wrong way, though, and I’m not exactly sure why at the moment. Perhaps it’s the cavalier manner in which you labeled it “anorexic food,” since I feel there’s enough oversimplification and misunderstanding of the disease to begin with. I’ll have to think about it some more and see if I can pinpoint the reason.

  11. Perhaps it’s the cavalier manner in which you labeled it “anorexic food,” since I feel there’s enough oversimplification and misunderstanding of the disease to begin with.

    I agree, but I didn’t see the intent to disparage those with anorexia. People usually think anorectics don’t eat, but they do. They just have very regimented rules in what and how much they eat. And unfortunately, there are probably lots of diet-minded people who would order the salad – so it’s not just a “niche market” for anorectics.

  12. thoughtracer permalink

    I can sense some offensiveness by title, too. And the comment that there is an inherent narcissistic quality in anorexics. Isn’t there an inherent narcissistic quality in anybody bothering to talk about or pay attention to their bodies at all? To label all anorexics as narcissistic is troubling and divisive; I have people who read my blog who are anorexic, and the fact that they are considering FA and still identify as anorexic points to a lack of narcissism, to me, anyway.

  13. I really intended the title to be tongue in cheek, in that I don’t think it is appropriate to be encouraging severe caloric restriction. I don’t think it is appropriate to encourage people to consume 200 calories as a meal and it borders on encouraging anorexia. I don’t think marketers encourage disordered eating in anyone, at all ever.

    I will change the title, since this seems to be the source of some contention and it is certainly not my intent to offend anyone.

  14. thoughtracer permalink

    I do have a problem with the labels on food that are: 100 calorie snacks. Or 200 calorie meals. I mean, because then all I think of is that if I eat 12 wheat thin crisp 100 calorie packs, I have now just eaten my daily caloric intake, according to the diets lots of people promote. It’s kind of a mindfuck.

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