Day 60: P.F. Chang’s and The Gum Controversy

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Last night we were out running errands near the mall when all of a sudden 6:00 hit. We could have gone all the way home and started making something for dinner, but how much easier would it be to just go out to eat at that point? Not to mention we were right by P.F. Chang’s and it smelled good. As it turns out it was probably the scent of one of their sauces (85 – 90% of which contain sugar) that lured us in!

The biggest challenge about taking our children out to eat is finding something that doesn’t break the rules, and that they will actually eat. Jason and I are obviously a little more flexible and understanding of our limited food choices in restaurants. My first thought was that I could order the girls a fried rice to share (with brown rice instead of white, no meat, and the addition of two veggies that I thought they may eat – green beans and mushrooms). Come to find out we could do the rice dish for them, but couldn’t have any of the sauce since there was sugar in it. We couldn’t even season it with soy sauce because the brand they buy also has sugar in it. I was caught a little off-guard when they brought out their dinner because it was just plain steamed brown rice mixed with mushrooms and green beans. I immediately knew there was no way my kids would eat that. I even tried a bite just to make sure (and confirmed it had no flavor!).  So we had to send their meal back and ask for it to still be made like regular fried rice (cooked in oil with bits of egg, onion, etc.), but just leaving off the sauce. I would have to say the restaurant was accommodating, but the revised dish was only slightly better than the first go round. Luckily I had some cashews and pistachios in my purse to supplement their meal.

My husband and I decided to have the Mahi Mahi which I was told by one of the sous chefs was the only seafood dish we could order as-is (due to the sugar in all of the other sauces). The only substitution we made was for it to be served over brown rice instead of white. The fish itself tasted great, but instead of serving it over the brown rice it came on a bed of white rice (which was mixed with cilantro and sitting in all of the lemongrass butter sauce – the only thing at our entire table that had any flavor!) and accompanied by two plain bowls of brown rice on the side. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think plain brown rice without any seasoning or sauce tastes very good! So we had to send our meal back too and ask for the fish to actually be over the brown rice, which would hopefully be soaking up some of the good sauce this time. So after all of that our spontaneous dinner out took almost an hour and forty-five minutes!

With all of the seafood, vegetables, and brown rice available on the menu at P.F. Chang’s, we thought for sure that ordering would be easy.  This was just yet another one of our experiences that shows how hidden processed foods and refined ingredients can be when you are eating away from home. I would say that I don’t plan to attempt Chinese food again until the 100 days are over.

In other news, with all that I am doing to bend over backwards and make sure I only feed our children the healthiest and most natural foods on earth can you believe that my husband got his “panties in a wad” because I gave the girls some gum (sugar-free gum nonetheless)?? You don’t actually EAT gum…you just chew it, right? So, here we enter some gray area when it comes to the rules. Since we started all of this I have already given them the sugar-free gum on several occasions and he politely suggested that I don’t “do that again” until the 100 days are over. Is this a little over the top or is it just me?

My husband insists I post his side of the story: The serving size on the sugar-free gum has 5 calories.  You extract the sweetener and flavorings during chewing (in this case chemicals and artificial sweetener), leaving the mostly flavorless gum base after chewing.  This is why gum tastes better at first…you are eating the sugar or sweetener. He doesn’t think chewing gum is a big deal, but says rules are rules.

I suppose it was a little easier to ignore this gray area before I read all of that.

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68 comments to Day 60: P.F. Chang’s and The Gum Controversy

  • mireille merkel

    Think about the servers and cooks in the restaurant for a minute!
    I certainly would not want to be them. Next time, stay home, or plan on being home for dinner.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Yes, we definitely agreed it was a mistake to go there!

    • LVParrothead

      Amen! I hope you left an exceptionally large tip for all this trouble as well ! I mean really – the fish had to be ON TOP of the rice? You following the rules is one thing, but this level of expectation of a chain restaurant and then complaining about how long it took makes you sound really inconsiderate.

  • Congrats on this project. You bring up some great points about the food we eat and the difficulty of moving away from processed foods.

  • tracy

    would you be willing to share some more of your easy recipes or maybe a list of items you buy and have on hand. I trying to change but not sure where to start. for example do you buy salad dressing or make your own? thanks!

  • I think your first mistake was thinking that P F Chang’s sounded good. YUK!

    As for delicious brown rice, you just have to cook it correctly. Here is my recipe, adapted from Alton Brown’s quick white rice recipe from his beans and rice recipe.

    3 cu water
    2 cu brown rice (i use medium grain i get for ~$12 for 25lb from costco)
    1 tsp salt
    1 tbsp olive oil

    put the 2 cu of brown rice, salt and oil over medium heat in a sauce pan. constantly stirring it. the idea here is to toast the rice, you will know its good when you smell a strong nutty smell.

    while that is toasting, bring the 3 cu of water to a boil. I like to use an electric kettle for this.

    About the time the electric kettle brings the water to a boil, your toasted rice will be nice and nutty smelling. Add the water to the rice.

    Turn the heat down to low and keep the water at a simmer. Wait about 35minutes.

    mmm… yummie brown rice. The olive oil and salt really bring nice flavor. I eat this under some frozen vegetables warmed up with salt and pepper almost every day for lunch. its a super cheap easy healthy lunch.

    but… p f chang’s… YUK.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      That does sound good and reminds me of a method I have used before to make rice pilaf…I will definitely give this a shot with brown rice too! Thank you for sharing.

  • It is so wonderful to see you and your family doing this. I follow The Paleo Diet (hunter gatherer) and i understand how difficult it can be to completely change your eating. Your blog is very inspiring. You and your husband are doing yourselves and your children a great favor by making this lifestyle change. Here are two sites that have helped me with my new lifestyle. Perhaps, you might find some helpful nuggets for your journey. – Her site is gluten free and easy to adapt to meet your needs – His site is primal. This should be close to your needs or can easily be tweaked to meet them.

    Good luck and keep up the good work. I hope this opens more eyes to what we are putting in our bodies.

  • Sara

    I read your article in the Observer, and I just wanted to let you (and your readers) know that this does not have to be such an expensive endeavor! Our family has reduced our monthly grocery budget by over $100 since we switched to an exclusively local, whole-foods diet. The key is in using whole ingredients from farmers’ markets rather than buying the “All Natural Organic Etc. Etc.” packaged stuff from upscale health food stores (i.e. Earth Fare), which just isn’t super realistic for most families. I read that you guys actually INCREASED your food spending by nearly $400 a month, and I’d hate for people to take away the message that that’s what it takes to eat healthy, local, whole foods. Try buying your organic beans, grains, etc. in bulk and baking your own bread rather than special-ordering the super-special-whole-wheat-whatever; the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day has great tips for home-baked whole wheat bread that isn’t time consuming at all. And I shop at the Matthews’ farmers’ market too, so I know for a fact that you can get a week’s worth of fabulous groceries there without spending hundreds of dollars!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Sounds like I could learn a lot from you! I have only been doing this since earlier this year and felt it was overwhelming to try to focus on whole/organic foods and still bargain shop at the same time. I hope to get better at doing this on a budget over time (and share tips with others). Would love to hear any other advice you have! Thank you.

  • Wonderful! It’s was very effective for me. I have used a long time to looking for the best paleo cookbook and now I think I have got something here .BTW, there is another article out there which is also help me much more : Hopes you will be interested in it too.

  • Just hopped on over from the Food, Inc. site. You’ve completely piqued my interest, I’m looking forward to spending some time reading more of your past entries.

  • Insane answered your question very properly. But since we are the subject, how do all those bugs survive the brutal winters in Chicago. We have days in dead winter that it gets to be 30 below 0

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  • Fantastically good thank you, I think your readers would certainly want a lot more content like that carry on the great content.

  • Beach

    I realize I’m rather late to the party, but I just discovered your blog. In reading the rules, I realized that I pretty much follow them already, except that I occasionally use sugar (I’ve been doing better about cutting that out this year).

    “Fast” Asian food tends to use artificial flavorings instead of good, fresh ingredients to provide umami. (and its sister site, has lots of quick, healthy Japanese-adapted recipes, including how to cook yummy brown rice at home, lots of veggie side dishes, etc. Most of them follow the rules (I tend to reduce the sugar and/or replace with honey for those recipes that call for it). The recipes are adapted to use ingredients that you can find locally (they have shopping guides for different areas, too).

    Some of my favorites are easy carrot-sesame salad, tofu teriyaki (adapted from a chicken teriyaki recipe), two-color namasu, spring chive-blossom fried rice, quick pickles, vegetarian shuumai dumplings, spicy lentil snacks, curried kidney beans… I’m not affiliated with the site, but it really helps me eat frugally, quickly, and healthily, while providing a ton of variety and flavor.

  • Athena Brighteyes

    No GUM! I agree with your husband :) It’s bad for you anyways anf unnecessary.

  • Carolyn

    Sorry, but I must agree with your husband. The sugar subs are consumed. These subs are just as bad as when consumed in a soda, just via a different means.

  • Jeri Ann Guth

    I realize this is an old post, but came across it on Pinterest, and had to reply. Several times, in the past years, my daughter has shared that she is met with “Are you kidding me?!” sort of reactions because we had cautioned her not to partake of sugar free gum. So, the scenario: “Would you like a piece?, my daughter asks, “Is it sugar free?”, the parent responds (enthusiastically) “Yes! It’s sugar free”, and my daughter says, (something like) ” I am only allowed to have gum with real sugar in it.” (Picture parental figure completely befuddled!) Sugar free gum is full of chemicals that are probable carcinogens, so if she has gum, we would prefer her to have real sugar. However, we avoid gum, now, all together, because if you read the ingredients, even the ones that do not say sugar free, have artificial sweeteners in them. This to me, has been the most annoying of things to cut out, because gum is so unnecessary – I have never been a “gum chewer”, so I don’t understand the appeal, but it seems to be something my tween feels she is missing out on. I would rather run the risk of ice cream or a milkshake with carageenan, than a piece of gum, which has absolutely zero chance of any nutrients entering the body.

  • Elle Pennell

    I certainly hope your readers don’t think this is ok to do in a restaurant , because I can assure you it is not. Your special diet is YOUR special diet. It’s a restaurant, it’s not home. The reason it took so long is because they were most likely disgusted by your diva like behavior. As a long time hospitality employee, I know I wouldn’t have been in any hurry to return your food to you. Order from the menu or don’t go out to eat.

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