Last night my third son Andrew got the happy news that he was accepted to the University Of Florida – Go Gators! Number 8 Public University in the US! Obviously Alina and I are really proud of him, and we were waiting for the news to see where he wanted to go for a celebratory dinner. His dinner, his choice, right? This is the son I wrote about earlier that I used to call Chicken Nuggett, but have lately been calling Steak.
He gets out of the shower after lacrosse practice and announces that he wants to go to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Really!? Five Guys. Off we go.
I don’t go to Five Guys much, I only go if the kids want to go there, and almost never for dinner, not that I don’t like it, I just think its a little over-priced and over hyped, and the menu really is death by calories and bad fat, if you are a typical eater. That said, the real reason I don’t go there has nothing to do with that stuff, as you can get a relatively healthy or targeted meal to fit almost any diet, from almost any restaurant. My issue is they don’t serve VD Shakes!
But, back to the headline, what are the Remarkable Health and Money Secrets This Year that you can learn at Five Guys? I walked up to the counter and ordered a “regular hamburger” with no bun, make it a lettuce wrap, all the way, plus jalapenos, and a water cup. That is more or less my standard kind of order if there are no VD shakes. I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the family’s order, I just paid the total about $42.00, mindlessly on my 2% cash back Citibank card. ChaChing, 84 cents coming back at me, baby!
As I was walking away from the counter, I kept looking at the menu and scratching my head, because something didn’t make sense. The “regular hamburger” at the top of the menu showed 840 calories (no cheese version). Get it all the way, and add 190 calories, remove the bun, deduct 240 calories, so I am netting about 790 calories. That is a lot for a single meal, and I kept wondering what I was missing. Then I saw the bottom of the menu has a “Little Hamburger” with 540 calories.
Their online menu looks like this:
But in the store it isn’t laid out this simply, so you have to search out the Little Hamburger, unless you are a regular and know what to order.
That is the issue. Five Guys gets you with a double burger as the lead-in offer. It’s up to you to back it down. Then, they hammer you with really tasty fries, a box of peanuts for grabbing while you wait for the food, unlimited soft drinks, shakes if you want. You can quickly get to a few thousand calories in a single sitting. Trust me, I am not bashing Five Guys here. This is just endemic of our world, particularly at restaurants. Portion sizes and combinations are massively over-caloried, regardless of what kind of diet you might be on. I cropped this picture from their website and added the calorie information. Delicioso, right?
Up to this point, I’d only eaten about 600 calories on the day, and as usual, wasn’t really hungry, so the 800 calories didn’t bother me too much, and I really enjoyed the meal. I left a little of the burger, ate a handful of peanuts, and snuck three small french fries from the kids.
Somewhere in the above paragraph are the Remarkable Health and Money Secrets This Year. These remarkable secrets can help you get started to improve your health and improve your finances this year. Let me point them out specifically:
- Order a water cup instead of any other kind of drink
- Go bunless
Let’s dig deeper:
Order a water cup. Three really cool things happen when you order a water cup. First, you avoid all the sugar and calories loaded into everything else they serve in those big beautiful Coca Cola Freestyle Machines https://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/everything-you-need-to-know-about-coca-cola-freestyle
Let’s do some math on this. 24 ounces of Coca-Cola is 280 calories. That’s about what you will get in a single 32 oz cup with ice. We all probably get at least one refill for the road, so you can easily double that, but let’s be conservative and stick with 280. Do you do this once per day? Twice per day? Let’s imagine the annual impact of just two of these drinks per week. 280 X 2 X 52 = 29,120 calories headed your way this year. 3,500 calories works out to 1 pound of either weight gain or loss, all other things equal, so annually, this represents 8.3 pounds of weight gain or loss. 8.3 pounds. Every. Year.
Someone may want to rationalize Diet drinks here. I will just say that I hate diet drinks, and let other people rant about them.https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/nutrition/10-ways-drinking-diet-soda-could-be-killing-you/ar-BBS8xNI
Second, at Five Guys, you save $2.95 plus tax per water cup versus a water bottle, or fountain drink. Let’s have some fun with this one. For us last night, we had four drinks. I had explained this concept to my kids one day (actually while at this same Five Guys for lunch about 6 months ago), and apparently it sticks every now and then. Tonight, unknown to me, we had four water cups on the table when I sat down. Wow! My newly minted Gator, exclusively drinks water and milk, so that one was not a surprise, but usually at a place like Five Guys he gets tricked into a water bottle. Alina and Luke will usually get a fountain drink, but since Alina joined me on the VD – see How we lost 69 pounds! she has stopped drinking Cokes. For me, last night, I saved almost $13.00 because of the drink choices that we made.
Astonishing. $13.00 isn’t a lot, but imagine doing this two meals per week, every week for a year. $13.00 X 2 X 52 weeks = $1,352 per year. You have to raise these kids for 18 years, about 15 of them would involve making this choice. That’s $20,280 dollars! If you invested that money to earn 8% per year, it would be $39,000, enough to get a serious jump start on paying for college, or an awesome vacation when you get them out of the house. How many times do you and your kids mindlessly order fountain drinks?
Third, you produce a lot less waste to head to a landfill or get “recycled”, which actually costs far more energy and pollution than simply burying this junk in a landfill.
Go Bunless. By now you probably know where I am going with this. Applying the math associated with making small changes over time is significant. At 240 calories, two buns per week extend out to about 24,960 calories (240 X 2 X 52). Divide by 3,500, and this simple choice represents 7.1 pounds. Per Year. Every. Year.
This is my bunless burger from Five Guys. A little tip about eating bunless, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the lettuce to amp up the flavor. Otherwise, all that is touching your tongue on the first several bites is plain, unseasoned lettuce. I like lettuce on its own, but I am at Five Guys, and most places, for the caucophohony of flavors that you get when you bite into a loaded burger or an Unwich at Jimmy John’s.
Since I started on my Keto Diet Plan, I substantially reduced carbohydrates across the board. You don’t have to go down my path at all, but what you have to do is find small things that can work for you, and are easy to start. The examples I gave illustrate the impact this year of just two better choices per week in each of these two areas (104 choices per year). Done every day, they become 3.5 times more significant!
When it comes to the bunless concept, consider expanding it to eliminating bread completely. Let’s add up the likely daily calories in our bread consumption. Consider the following typical bread additions to your daily meals, whatever variety of other elements you are eating:
- Breakfast, 1 piece of toast with butter and jelly 198 calories
- Lunch a burger, sandwich, or sub 240 calories in the bun or sub
- Dinner 1 piece of texas toast 123 calories
- Daily calorie intake from breads 561
- Annual Calorie intake from bread 204,765
- Pound equivalent 58.50 pounds. Per Year. Every. Year.
This calculator from Nutritionix.com is really good for looking at nutirition content, and also includes a useful comparison to show you how long you have to walk, run, or work out to burn the calories contained in the particular food. Based on their numbers, you have to walk for about 2.5 hours every day to burn the number of calories listed above consumed just from bread products!
Nutritionix also offers an app that can help you track all this stuff. I don’t use apps to track my calories and macronutrients, because I can easily keep track of it in my head, close enough. For many people these apps are valuable tools and you should find what works to keep you motivated and on track. I’ll test a few in the future.
I also found this calculator that let’s you more closely link your specific situation in order to determine how many calories you should target per day to lose, gain, or maintain weight. Don’t over-estimate your activity level, unless you happen to be an Olympic Gold Medal swimmer. Michael Phelps once claimed he ate 12,000 calories per day!
Tell me what you think.
Can you make just two small changes to your eating habits this year?
Do you use any apps to track your food intake? Which ones do you like?