It was a warm day in Boston, we got up early in the morning to have a look at colleges. Then, we ended up in Cambridge Square. The surrounding architecture and shops were pretty cute; there were lots of tourists & ‘buskers’ that day.
It was time for brunch, so we headed over to… Au Bon Pain… That’s right, we came all the way to Boston to have Au Bon Pain (sigh).
Au bon pain
So, if you have never been to an Au Bon Pain in the States, you would be as surprised as I was. There was a vast range of dining selections and many of them were self-serve i.e. the baked goods, soup station, fountain drinks, coffee, etc. In Thailand, Au Bon Pain were not self-serve & had much less menu options. USA: the land of plenty.
And now, onto the nutritional reviews…
My brother’s option of Caprese w/ Chicken sandwich (1/2) + 12 Veggie Soup (small) $6.99.
Caprese w/ Chicken sandwich + 12 Veggie Soup
TASTE – The sandwich was predominantly bland. The only flavor coming through was pesto w/ a bit of cheesy mozzarella taste. The only good point was the softness of ciabatta bread.
The 12 Veggie Soup also tasted very average. There was not a lot of veggie flavor (despite there being 12 kinds), mostly of tomatoes + peas (?). Because I don’t really enjoy Western-style veggie soups that contain tomatoes & beans…
NUTRITION – 1/2 of the sandwich = 340 calories & the small 12 Veggie Soup = 120 calories. In total: 460 calories. An extremely low calorie yet nutritious lunch. How? Let’s start w/ the sandwich. This sandwich overall, is quite high in protein (21 g according to Au Bon Pain – as much as one 97 g chicken drumstick) of which comes from the dry chicken breast, mozzarella cheese & ciabatta bread. The chicken will not contribute much nutritionally other than vitamin B-6, cholesterol (some), & protein. Mozzarella cheese is considered one of the less fatty & high protein cheese (often made into cheese sticks snacks), it is an average source of protein (calories >> protein), but contains more calcium than milk of the same caloric value & also vitamin A. Ciabatta bread is pretty void of nutrients apart from traces of enriched iron, thiamine, vitamin Bs, etc. The small amounts of veggies like tomato & argula contribute little amounts of vitamin A & C. Judging from the ingredients used this sandwich does not contain that many nutrients. If the chicken & cheese were swapped out for salmon, cottage cheese & more veggies, the nutritional value would increase dramatically.
Because of the low-calorie & fat content, this sandwich gets a…
As I have mentioned, the 12 Veggie Soup is a little over 100 calories. This is typical of a vegetable soup; homemade ones will probably contain even less calories. Despite the healthy name, this soup contains very little minerals other than vitamin C (20%) & A (35%), according to the Au Bon Pain site. Perhaps because of the fact that non-fresh ingredients have been used (check the previous link to find out), like dehydrated potatoes & mushroom extracts.
*Tip on reading the ingredients label:
Most common ingredients are listed first. As you can see ‘diced tomatoes in juice’ comes right after ‘water’. It is basically canned soup… (tomatoes, tomato juice, citric acid, calcium chloride). Ingredients that make up less than 2% of the food is usually listed at the back of the list.
Vitamin contents in vegetables & fruits tend to decrease dramatically from the time they have been harvested (check out this study) so in order to get the most nutrients from vegetable soups, use the freshest veggies. This soup doesn’t contain significant amounts of sodium (only 600 mg 25% of daily recommendations) nor protein (3 g) most of the calories come from carbohydrate (18g or 6% daily recommendations = ~3 rice cakes). Since it is easy to find more nutritious soups w/ similar amounts of calories (check out this >100 calories miso soup recipe), this soup will only get a…
My option was a Southwest Chicken Salad $7.49
TASTE – Overall, the avocado + corn + beans + roasted chicken combination made for a tasty salad. The chicken had a BBQ/tangy steak sauce sort of flavor, but was still on the bland side. For me, dressing was definitely needed. I picked out two dressings to try out: (being Thai) Thai dressing & Southwest vinaigrette dressing (both 160 calories). So, really the entire salad is ~510 calories. Because I didn’t touch the wonton flakes nor finished the entire salad, this probably took out around >100 calories.
As for the dressings, the Southwest vinaigrette dressing definitely went better w/ the salad (duh). It was tangy & sweet. The Thai dressing, which tasted more like peanut sauce definitely should only be eaten w/ the Thai salad.. It was very peanut-ty, sweet, a bit spicy; also a bit too starchy & had a slight Skippy’s taste, unlike in authentic recipes which use fresh roasted peanuts.
NUTRITION – This salad is quite nutritionally complete. It contains plenty of protein 31 g (60% daily recommendations), 43 g of carb (14% daily recommendation & 2x amount of carb in chicken caprese sandwich…How?? This salad’s serving size is 3x the sandwich’s weight. Ciabatta bread is quite an airy bread. The amount of carb listed also include those from fried wonton flakes & the beans & sweet corn). The salad also contains 12 g of fibre (almost 50% daily recommendation) & a whopping 320% of daily vitamin A, 45% of daily vitamin C, 20% iron & 10% calcium. Sound impossible? The ingredients of this salad all contains huge amounts of vitamins, such as romaine lettuce (great source of vitamin A), tomatoes (moderate vitamin A & C), black bean (good source of iron, magnesium & calcium) & avocado (vitamin C, Bs & lots of good fats). The amount of fat in the salad is moderate (16g or 25% daily recommendation) if you want to cut down on this, choose 0 fat balsamic vinegar because: 1. packet dressings will never contain healthy oil but something like canola or soybean (which are not good for you) 2. avocados should give enough fat needed to absorb fat-soluble nutrients from the salad. Another reason why this salad is healthy is because most of the ingredients used, other than black beans & dressing are fresh. Click here for more complete nutritional profile. In other words, this salad will not only count towards at least 1/2 of your daily vitamins intakes, it will definitely leave you filled up for long.
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Once again, we visited Boston’s Copley Square.
Mostly though, we were at Copley for Newbury Street which was only a few minutes walk from there. Newbury Street is like Boston’s 5th Avenue with plenty of luxurious brand stores & chic restaurant cafés which lined two sides of the street for several blocks towards Boston Common.
The day before, we visited Newbury when most the shops (except for froyo perhaps) were already closed (~8 pm). Best time to visit Newbury is ~5 pm or dinnertime, when the sun is setting & the streets are bustling.
We browsed the shops for a while before settling for dinner @Papa Razzi – stylish yet affordable Italian restaurant.
So, I was super impressed w/ Papa razzi even before the meal arrived. All the waiters/waitresses were very friendly & considerate. They offered appetizer bread & continually filled our glasses w/ water. Despite the fact that our waiter mistook me for a guy: “how are you doing, gentlemen?” (Recently shaved my hair for a Childhood Cancer Research Foundation) He later repeatedly stressed female pronouns when addressing me i.e. “What would she like to have?” Also, at the end the manager personally came over to ask us how our meal went. Great service. What about the food?
They didn’t even charge us when we asked for a second bread plate! Even replaced the spicy olive oil tub w/ a new one for us – wasteful but great service.
Here are our orders:
Oak-fried Pizza: Piccante $13.99
TASTE – The pizza was not too cheesy nor bread-y. The crust was soft, soaked in fresh tomatoes & very light. The rims were crispy & fluffy. Italian sausage used was also well-seasoned (pretty salty but not overdone). Cheese used was not oily nor salty, perhaps premium mozzarella was used.
NUTRITION – Originally, pizza is not an unhealthy dish, especially if healthy carbs have been used i.e. spelt crust pizza Fast-food chains have put a bad light on it like they had w/ Chinese food & Doner Kebab. Pizzas contain as much carbs & fat as your average sandwich w/ cheesy or saucy fillings. A tip for eating pizza healthily is putting lots of topping on each piece to fill up so you won’t be reaching for one piece after another i.e. this recipe. This pizza contained some Italian sausage pieces & pepperoni, but most of the toppings were mozzarella & fresh tomatoes. Italian sausage contains about as much calories as other sausages like bratwurst or beef/pork (other than chicken or turkey) but it may contain more fat. Salami on the other hand tend to contain more fat than other sausages & definitely much more salt (an average serving of 28 g 3 pieces or ~100 calories may contain as much as 30% of daily recommendation for sodium). Most people will probably finish 2/3 of this size pizza. This means they would probably take in ~1060-1160 calories, ~40.5 g fat (61% daily fat intake), 92 g carbohydrate (~32% of daily recommendation) & 47 g protein. In terms of micronutrients: significant source of calcium, vitamin B-12, some vitamin B-6, iron, small amounts of magnesium, vitamin D & A. Chopped tomatoes will also provide significant source of Vitamin C (~1/2 daily intake) & lycopene (an antioxidant thought to be even more potent than vitamin C), which only become more bioavailable w/ heat. If you do eat the entire pizza you will take in a bit more nutrients, but possibly up to 1,590-1,740 calories (80-90% daily calorie intake)
Because of the high caloric value, I can only give this vitamin B, calcium & lycopene-rich pizza a…
Insalate: Panzanella $8.99
TASTE – So, this salad was definitely a rip-off. $9 for a couple pieces of capers & mush of goat cheese that’s been mashed into dressing? However, the dressing was pretty on point. It had a strong unmistakable goat cheese (Vermont) taste that was salty, sour & cheesy. For me, it was too overwhelmingly creamy. Although the salad was tasty, it wasn’t very true to the menu listing, which said it also contained baby greens, torn foccacia & red wine vinaigrette. The 3 pieces of torn focaccia tasted like croutons & I couldn’t tell the vinaigrette that went into the goat cheese mush was supposed to be red wine.
NUTRITION – So, if there were actually baby greens in this we would have gotten much more iron & calcium! But we will have to just make do w/ romaine lettuce. First of all, this salad will probably contain max of 300 calories (possibly less) with virtually all the calories coming from goat cheese. Goat milk products have been hailed as the better dairy alternative – why? Goat cheese contains less calories (less fat, saturated fat & protein), no cholesterol, easier to digest (less lactose, smaller fat globules) & has a higher concentration of micronutrients like calcium, vitamin Bs & D (even then this is still not a significant amount). So, personally I still wouldn’t think of goat cheese or other milk product as a health product. This salad probably contains about 1 1/2 cup of romaine lettuce which is almost nothing but water & ~100% of daily recommendation of Vitamin A (that is pretty much present in almost all other plant foods), small amounts of tomatoes, shredded focaccia & capers ( in such small amount they don’t really amount to any nutritional value). Although this salad is not nutrient-dense, it is still low calorie, hence…
Why not do a review for the appetizer sourdough bread & olive oil too?
TASTE – Despite being a sourdough, the bread was soft. They weren’t warm enough though. Spicy olive oil was a new & positive experience for me. It may have been chili oil mixed w/ olive oil – the chili was definitely stronger than olive taste. The olive oil they had at each table was Extra Virgin with very strong olive taste.
NUTRITION – Olive oil has been glorified for years as the pillar of the perfect mediterranean diet. I think olive oil is overrated. I believe what really makes mediterranean diet healthy is its emphasis on vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish & use of herbs/spices to flavor food (this short lecture about olive oil is pretty interesting & amusing; this article talks about olive oil’s nutrition). Extra Virgin Olive oil (high quality & expensive) does contain 70-80% polyphenols in its fat content, but in fact, foods like tea or red wine can contain even greater concentration of this antioxidant for less calories. The other LDL (bad cholesterol) & blood-sugar lowering fatty acids present like MUFAs or PUFAs can also be found at higher amounts in i.e. sunflower oil or safflower oil & oily fish (respectively). It’s not clear what was in the spicy olive oil but from the light taste, not much Extra Virgin Olive oil was present. Extra Virgin Olive oil they provided probably contained more healthy fats (the only nutrient olive oil contain). Sourdough bread may be better for your blood-sugar than other common breads (it has lower sugar content because of yeast fermentation) but in terms of nutrition, it is virtually the same as other white bread – (average serving of 64 g) 12% daily intake of iron, traces of magnesium, vitamin B-6, only 6% daily recommendation of fibre & 8 g of protein (<x2 serving of ham). When matched w/ normal olive oil; one olive oil bread basket serving (2 small slices ~64 g & 1 tbsp olive oil) will probably have a nutritional profile of ~300 calories, 8 g protein, moderate amounts of polyphenols & iron.
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So, we didn’t actually get ice-cream. Because we like frozen yoghurt so much we went all the way back to Cambridge to buy some.
J.P. Licks Ice Cream, Yogurt, Coffee
NutraSweet Amaretto + vanilla (kiddy size) $3.30
TASTE – The Amaretto flavor was definitely very tasty. I’d confused ‘Amaretto’ w/ ‘Morello’ (a type of sour cherry) so I’d thought Amaretto was cherry flavor… In fact, Amaretto was Italian alcohol. Nevertheless, it barely contained alcohol flavor & even tasted a bit like pickled cherry that I had presumed. Vanilla flavor was average. Both flavors had been sweetened w/ NutraSweet rather than sugar, hence they had strange sweetener tinges.
So, I did the good ol’ assumption game and assumed that ‘NutraSweet‘ was the sweetener brand that uses stevia (that’s actually Truvia) simply based off the name (Nutra = nutritious? natural?)! In fact, NutraSweet contain aspartame which has gone through many researches that confirm its numerous health risks.
NUTRITION – Most sugar-free frozen yoghurt average at ~100 calories per 100 g, which is probably the same size as the kiddy portion I got. This kiddy cup would have contained small amounts of calcium, protein, traces of vitamin Bs & other minerals. Unlike popular myths, frozen yogurt is not a health food since most brands include ingredients like cream, milk & definitely lots of sugar. In addition, comparing to normal yoghurt, it is more difficult to know whether or not the probiotics have survived the freezing process. A way to find out is to find “Live and Active Cultures” on the label or contact manufacturers. Because aspartame have been used & the small amount of nutrients present…
Diet AriZona iced tea, raspberry flavour
TASTE – Mostly bland & artificial.
NUTRITION – Diet AriZona uses the sweeteners: Sucralose & Acesulfame K. Researches on Sucralose has not shown many negative side effects, but no long-term studies have been done on this 0 calorie sweetener. Acesulfame K have shown slight carcinogenic effects on extreme doses (which humans cannot possibly consume) over extended period of time (on rats). Nevertheless, this product have been highly processed, contain additives to prolong shelf-life & the nutritional quality of tea or juice concentrate used = 0.
So, I felt J.P. Licks was a bit on the pricey side $3.30 for a kiddy cup that disappeared in 3 minutes! The sugar-free froyo I’d ordered were not that superb either. 80 cents for nuts + candy, $1 for fruits + sauces toppings. The service was average: servers were inattentive (I couldn’t even ask for toppings! Good for me; saved 80 cents), cashier was brash; the only helpful & friendly person was the owner. This could be because they were super busy (long line even at ~9pm) & they worked into the night (closes at 12am every night). I would recommend to just order their famous ice-cream & definitely not the sugar-free yoghurt range!!
Stay in tuned for Boston Trip Day 3!