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Your on-the-job food choices could be as hazardous to your health as any violent offender.

July 01, 2002  |  by - Also by this author

Since its “Jared” ad campaign and long before, Subway has been a favorite among fitness-oriented cops. The roasted chicken breast sandwich and chips has 460 calories, 16 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 1,060 miligrams of sodium. Hold the chips and you save 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 180 miligrams of sodium.

Sneezers and Stoners

Wherever you decide to eat, consider avoiding salad bars, smorgasbord establishments, and similar hygienic nightmares. This is where restaurants such as Subway have an advantage: You can see your food being made. With all the anecdotal horror stories of fry cooks adulterating the orders of cops, the last thing a cop needs is to unwittingly submit a dirty test because some Iron Chef wannabe sprinkled a little cannabis sativa as an additive.

What with all the horning and snorting, chipping and slamming, shooting and jamming that we see our suspects doing, you'd think we'd be a little more cautious with what we put in our own systems. Unfortunately, one need only inventory the candy wrappers in our back seats, the sunflower seed shells on the floorboard, and smell the cigar smoke residue to know some of the officers in our sister cars aren't living the most abstemious lifestyles.

Original Recipe thigh and wing meal at KFC with mashed potatoes and biscuit tallies 690 calories (with diet drink), 44 grams of fat, 10.5 grams of saturated fat, and 2,165 miligrams of sodium. Holding the biscuit saves you 180 calories, 10 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, and 560 miligrams of sodium.

If your lifestyle and diet are less than healthy, now's the time to change. Or you can wait for a significant emotional event, an epiphany like a heart attack or stroke that dramatically alters your perceptions. Unfortunately, not everyone survives his or her first heart attack.

Hazardous Materials

There are certain compounds in food that are essential to good health but can cause or magnify illness when consumed in excess. These are the equivalent of what hazmat professionals call "bad actors." They are substances in your food that can be extremely damaging to your body.

Cholesterol and fat: The important thing to remember is there is no such thing as "good" or "bad" cholesterol in your food, only in your blood. Also, many doctors and nutritionists believe that the saturated fats in hydrogenated oils in cookies are as dangerous or even more dangerous than the cholesterol in high-cholesterol foods like eggs. This should not be taken as a license to ignore cholesterol content, but as a warning to also watch total fat intake, especially saturated fat. One really good way to lower the fat content of fast-food meals is to hold the cheese, the mayo, and mayo-based sauces.

Sodium: For most people, sodium chloride (salt) is not a major hazard. But if you have high blood pressure or a family history of high blood pressure, sodium is a stone killer. The first thing you can do to cut back on sodium is ditch the salt shaker. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Most of the sodium in our diets comes to us through the food itself, not by extra shakes of Morton's iodized. To make things worse, sometimes the "healthy" fast foods are full of sodium. You can reduce the sodium in fast foods by passing on sauces, holding the pickles, dropping the cheese, and staying away from processed and cured meats like bacon.

Sugar and carbohydrates: The key to healthy consumption of sugar and carbs for most people is moderation. But if you are overweight or have diabetes, sugar and carbs are as bad for you as sodium is for people with high blood pressure. Most sugar enters your diet not through the sugar bowl but in processed foods, including baked goods, candies, cereals, sauces, etc. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruits, milk, and vegetables, are generally OK in moderation, even for diabetics. Carbs turn into sugar in the body and are also generally safe in moderation. But if you're overweight and inactive, watch the carbs.

For all dietary issues, if you have medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, be sure to follow your doctor's advice.

Chinese food can be a healthy alternative to more traditional fast-food fare, but watch the soy sauce and the MSG. Panda Express’ two entree combo (orange chicken and beef and broccoli) with chow mein totals 760 calories, 34 grams of fat, 6.5 grams of saturated fat, and 2,420 miligrams of sodium. A good way to make this meal lighter is to substitute steamed rice for the chow mein, saving 50 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and 1,085 miligrams of sodium.

Seven Painless Dieting Tips

Dieting's not fun. But rather than having to suck in one's cheeks and belly to simulate the ravages of hunger, it's better to remember these little tips when you're unable to make that u-turn at the food bar.

  1. Bust that mayonnaise and special sauce. Try wiping them off with a Chem-wipe, or something. To compensate for these taste delicacies, douse with mustard, ketchup, salsa, or pepper spray. Mustard is best because it's both low fat and low sodium.
  2. Cover your partner, but not your salad. At least, not with creamy high-fat Sam Browne-busting dressing.
  3. Treat deep-fried foods and cheese eats with the contempt you'd normally reserve for a violent third-strike offender: Lock 'em up and throw away the key.
  4. If you're starving and the only eating establishment in sight is a Stop 'n Rob, skip the beef jerky and grab a nutrition bar.
  5. If given a choice between having your foods fried or grilled, grill 'em like a caffeinated Joe Friday.
  6. Try to eat like you do at home (unless you eat like a pig there, too). Skip the "glutton specials" and stop "super-sizing." Eat normal-sized meals, as portions are an important consideration.
  7. Exercise.

Editor's Note: The nutritional content calculations used in this story come from

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