It’s a very common question in my office from my patients: what should I do when I’m going out to eat? We work SO hard during the week to stay consistent and eat clean, but when the weekends roll around, we forget how hard we’ve worked. We want to let loose and just enjoy ourselves without feeling like all the work we did during the week is just cancelled out. The food and drinks we indulge in don’t always have to make you feel worse before another week hits us. So here are my top tips for what to do, plan, and expect for when eating out…
HAVE A PLAN
Read the menu to make a plan ahead of time. When you have a plan, there’s no decision to be made when you’re actually in the restaurant. When you go out to eat, you want to enjoy the company around you, not worry about what you’re going to order and how many calories it’s going to be! Just remember that chain restaurants are legally required to provide calories, where mom and pop type places do not have to. We’ll talk more about strategies with calorie-less restaurants…
Make sure you’re drinking water before and throughout the meal. It’s no secret that when you drink enough water, it helps lower appetite. Making sure you’re hydrated before you start eating helps keep those hunger pangs away and ultimately helps you make a more mindful decision when you’re looking at a menu.
Don’t be afraid to share: an app and an entree with a friend or beau. Collaborating with the person you’re dining with can not only help with portion control, but it can offer up more dishes to try, and your wallet will thank you. Getting both an appetizer and an entree will give you more dishes to try than if you were to just get one entree and forego the app. Go outside of your comfort zone and try something different.
Keep it simple; stay away from creams, gravies and sauces. Ordering a protein and two side dishes can often be a lot less calories than a salad. The less there is within each meal, the less calories it’s going to pack in. Watch for things that may seem healthy, but have sauce, cream or gravy along with them. Grilled chicken can be great, but not if it comes topped with cheese, heavy cream, or gravy. Forego the sodium-ladened additions and keep it simple.
Try to get dishes that are 500 calories or less. This may seem like a lot of calories, but when you look at the calories on most menus, this is more difficult to find than you’d think. Most meals can easily provide 800-1200 calories, and that’s just the entree, let alone the fries and the drink you have with it. So sticking with under 500 calories per meal can help limit that overstuffed and bloated feeling after eating out.
Snack ahead of time; never go hangry. Imagine sitting in a restaurant, your stomach is yelling at you out of hunger, and you want to make a healthy choice, but all you see is juicy burgers and chicken fingers on the menu. You’re going to say “F’ it” and order the cheeseburger because you’re literally STARVING. Making decisions when you’re hangry can be very dangerous, so never let yourself get hangry or save your calories for the day before you go out to eat. Otherwise, you’ll regret it later, stuff yourself full, and won’t be hungry for the rest of the day.
WATCH YOUR MIXERS
Avoid drinking your calories; try seltzer water or tea. Take the surge in craft beers for example. Many craft beers (which are the tastier ones) are typically between 200-300 calories for one, and the likelihood you’re just having one is usually slim. So it’s better to stick with a hard liquor, use water, plain iced tea, or seltzer (calorie-free) as your mixer, and you typically don’t need as many. This will keep calories low and again prevent any serious stuffed feeling after your meal.
Try soup and salad for a little bit of everything. I often get in the mood for something hot, but I want some crunch and veggies too. I’ll get a soup and salad or chili and salad which is very filling, the portions are automatically smaller than a full entree, and you’re getting the satisfaction from different textures when you eat. Sometimes it’s better to pick on different things, than order a healthier meal you’re not really craving. The more you try to avoid that craving, the more it will pick back at you.
Identify your non-negotiables. What I mean by this is what to you means you’re truly enjoying your meal. If you order something because you know it’s better for you, but all you can think about is that cheesesteak that you really want, you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied and still wanting more. You often will snack on other people’s food that you’re with just to get some satisfaction. Think about what you want and order a salad with that cheese steak instead of fries. Or put cheese steak on top of your salad and skip the bun altogether. Figure out clever ways to eat the foods you love, without going overboard with other unhealthy foods. You’ll feel better AND satisfied.
TAKE YOUR FOOD HOME
A cardinal rule that’s been around forever, but still rings true. It’s helpful to try and eat half of your meal and take the other half home rather than just stuff the rest in your belly, because “it doesn’t seem like that much.” Going back to the calorie amounts in foods, most meals are over 1,000 calories. So by splitting up your portions in two, you’re not only cutting calories but you’re also sticking to a smaller portion that will leave you feeling lighter after a meal. Another bonus; you get to eat and enjoy your meal twice over! I don’t know about you, but to me that’s winning.
So next time you’re ordering or eating out, think about a few of these tips and try to implement them when necessary. Eating out doesn’t mean you have to leave feeling stuffed, tired and fluffy. It’s up to us what we put in our mouths, so do yourself a favor and leave the restaurant feeling empowered, in control, and satisfied!
Let’s face it, when you’re trying to feed your toddler, it can be very challenging to say the least. It changes on a daily basis, and they’ll do anything NOT to try something new. So in this blog, I’ll provide some tips to help encourage your littles to try some new foods, and provide some fun recipes that will excite them and get them involved in the kitchen.
PUREES FOR DAYS
Purees are one of the easiest things to not only make ahead and freeze, but to hide in a large variety of foods. From cauliflower, butternut squash, broccoli, and carrots, you can puree literally any vegetable to throw in different foods. A great example of this is butternut squash mac and cheese. Reflecting back to my childhood, mac and cheese was one of my favorite foods. If my mom hid pureed butternut squash in there, I never would have known the difference. It’s the same color, and gives it a nice creamy texture. You can also use puree cauliflower as an “alfredo sauce” for veggies or noodles to give them a nice, creamy texture. The key is taking the time to make the purees and having them in your freezer at the ready. It can be simple, but what the littles don’t know won’t hurt them!
I suggest this not only with toddlers, but adults as well. Mixing healthier foods in with our regularly consumed foods can help add veggies without sacrificing taste. An example of this is adding cauliflower rice to regular rice. Again, it’s the same color and they have a similar texture, but you’re still eating rice. Meatloaf is another way to hide some veggies. Throw in a mirepoix mix (carrots, celery and onion) to your meat mixture but make sure to finely mince the veggies in a food processor so you can’t even see that they’re in there! Try throwing really finely chopped spinach into eggs, as it wilts perfectly with eggs and doesn’t change the taste. If they ask what the green is, make it a positive addition (green to help your muscles grow, keep your body strong and give you energy).
Ants on a log, apple donuts, fruit kabobs, and heart-shaped sandwiches are all great ways to put foods into fun shapes to encourage our kids to eat or even try foods. The more fun a food is, the more they’ll be willing to try it. See the recipes at the end of this post for ideas, but getting creative is key. The more you respond positively, so will your toddlers.
EATING THE RAINBOW
Often when I see kids in my office I always use the rainbow approach. Sit down and show your kids the colors of the rainbow, have them even do a coloring activity of the rainbow and see if they can name just one fruit or vegetable from each color. The more involved they are and learn from you, the more eager they’ll be to try different colors. They often want to try each color rather than the actual food, but it’s a start and gets them excited to try something new. When they come up with the idea of the food they want to try, they’re much more likely to try it as well.
IMMERSION BLENDERS ARE LIFE
When making a simple dinner like spaghetti and meatballs, there are a ton of ways to sneak in those veggies without the kids realizing. With your sauce, add as many vegetables as you can that won’t only enhance flavor, but will puree very easily with an immersion blender. Throwing celery, onion, carrot, butternut squash, even cauliflower in a red sauce and blending it up so you don’t even see it is a great way to hide those veggies but also boost fiber. With your meatballs, you can do the same thing, like the above mentioned “hiding them in foods” post. Remember, using seasonings are always helpful to keep the flavors alive as well.
Immersion blenders are easy to clean, don’t take up too much space and keep dirty dishes minimized since you can blend it up right in the pot that the food is in. You can also add parsnips to mashed potatoes, butternut squash to sweet potatoes, or even cauliflower to an alfredo sauce. Use your imagination!
TRY EVERYTHING MANY TIMES OVER
They key to truly seeing if we like or don’t like a food is to not only try it multiple times, but also try it in different ways. When I was a kid, I hated brussel sprouts and now they’re one of my favorite veggies. I discovered that getting the shredded version and roasting them with olive oil, salt and pepper was the most delicious way to make them! I could eat them like that every night if I had to. My point is that it’s not always about the food itself, but the ways in which you cook it. Your little may not like broccoli cooked, but may love it raw with ranch, so try it in it’s different forms.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Always remember how your attitude is towards certain foods. Let’s say you hate spinach. If you constantly talk about how gross spinach is or how it’s something you just need to eat to be healthy, you’re not setting the best example for your little one. When they see you not having a positive attitude towards trying new things, they won’t either. The more fun, exciting, and new you make trying a new food, the more your toddler will want to play along too!
NOW FOR SOME INSPO…
See below for some great recipes that you can make with your little ones and also some great ways to sneak more nutrition into foods as well!
HONEY MUSTARD HUMMUS
This is a hit with kids and if they like honey mustard flavored things, they’ll love this hummus. It takes about 5 minutes to throw together and pair with a side of carrots, celery, or pretzels. Check out the recipe here.
This is such a fun snack to make with your kids!! It’s so simple and who doesn’t love sprinkles? Simply cut your apple in thin slices, cut out the core with the tip of a spoon, top with your favorite greek yogurt, sprinkles, and devour!!
BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP “NICE” CREAM
Who doesn’t love ice cream? Frozen bananas whipped into a puree go a long way for a healthier sweet treat. Simply add chocolate chips, cinnamon, almond milk, and you can even try to add different extracts to change up the flavor. Get your kids to pick out the toppings and switch it up every time. Check out a great recipe here.
Just like ice cream, popsicles are a great frozen treat in the summer. Skip out on all the high fructose corn syrup and get the kids to make their own! Another strategy to get them to try their own creations. The possibilities are endless, but check out a great recipe here and the ice pop molds on my favorite things list under “Kid Stuff” from amazon here.
These pancakes are SO good and so versatile. Ingredients are simple and you can add things like frozen berries, chocolate chips, fruited greek yogurt, you name it!
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together until well combined. Spray and heat pan over medium heat and pour mixture into pan. Flip when edges are firm and flip until golden brown. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
Before I was a believer, I always thought Costco was all hype; until I started to drink the kool aide myself. I can now say that I love everything “Costco” and go grocery shopping there EVERY WEEK. Granted, there are only 2 of us in the house, but I still manage to get almost ALL foods I need from Costco, and it keeps my meal prep simple and food waste down. Check out some of my favorite items I have on hand to keep my week consistent and stay on track.
Hummus cups – These little individually packed hummus cups make snacks and lunches much easier. Coming in at 160 calories per cup, paired with carrots or celery make the perfect, satisfying snack. You could also incorporate it in lunches by spreading it on wraps and sandwiches. Want a little spice? You could add some sriracha or hot sauce to kick it up a notch!
Salsa – Being a dietitian, I always stress how taco salads are so satisfying, yet so low calorie! Using salsa as your dressing dramatically cuts down on saturated fat and sugar intake compared to traditional salad dressings. Not into salads? Just have it as a snack! Having chips and salsa already portioned out into containers will keep your week simple yet still satisfying.
Salad kits – Prepping a salad takes a lot more work than it does to prep a sandwich or wrap. Costco has huge salad kits that will feed you at least 4 times during the week. What I’ll do is take the lettuce from the kits and divide into four containers, throw the salad mixings in snack baggies divided into four (so they don’t get soggy), and pick out a dressing. The beauty of this is you don’t need to buy all the ingredients individually, just pair with a protein and you’re done! Meal prep in less than 10 minutes! My favorite mix to use is the Greek salad kit with added chickpeas for protein (1/2 cup per salad).
Beans – Yes, the magical fruit. They’re loaded in fiber, protein, B vitamins, potassium, and the list goes on. The best part about getting them at Costco? You can get 6 cans in one shot and they’ll last you for weeks! As I mentioned earlier, adding beans to salads, dips, sandwiches and snacks is the easiest way to boost protein as well as kick up the fullness factor. No cooking is involved and your time is saved by using canned beans. Just be sure to rinse them before adding them, as it will wash off a lot of the sodium beans can have.
Frozen cauliflower pizza – This pizza is one of my favorites to ALWAYS have in my freezer. It has saved me from going out to eat countless times and I’m just as satisfied, maybe even more satisfied than if I were to go out and grab a pizza. Are they pricey? Yes, but you’re paying about $7 for each pizza which if you were to go out to eat, you’d be paying double that. It tastes delicious, is only 250 calories for a serving, and you can pick it up with your hands to eat it! #winning
Bean and rice burritos/burrito bowls – These are another super satisfying, yet quick grab and go type food. They are frozen, so they can hang out in your freezer until you come across that one time where you don’t have a plan, you’re hangry, and you have nothing to eat in the house. I have eaten these so many times when I just don’t have time to sit down and eat and I need to make it quick. Not only are they delicious and super easy to throw together, they’re also vegetarian!
Eggs – If you asked me a few years ago if I thought hard-boiling 28 eggs was aggressive, I would’ve told you you’re right. What I’ve come to realize, is that 28 eggs can go fast when you’re using them either in a meal or as a snack between 2 people. These eggs are sold in a 28-pack, which is perfect for me because I know I’ll use them all! I cook them all in the oven to keep meal prep simple, and they come out tasting fresh, delicious, and easy to peel which is always a win.
Veggie Cakes – Are they processed? Yep! Does that stop me from buying them? Nope! These veggie cakes are a great way to add veggies to a protein to make your meal complete. We all have those nights where dinner isn’t prepared, and we don’t feel like cooking. These cakes come in handy especially for that! They’re loaded with veggies, provide some protein, and you can try to trick your kids into eating them too! Yes, it’d be better to make these on your own, but who always has time for that?
Quinoa – This bag just keeps on giving. I’ve gone through 2 of these in 2 years time. I would consider this a panty staple for sure. When you’re low on time or don’t have a starch to pair with meals, quinoa will always be there waiting when you have a 4 ½ lb bag in your cupboard. One of my tricks to adding more flavor? Cook it in a broth instead of water (bone broth, chicken broth, vegetable broth) and it’ll shock your tastebuds!
Rotisserie chicken – The meat that’s already cooked and tastes delicious before you even take it home. These can be great for a quick family dinner paired with some veggies or even a salad kit from Costco and you have a complete meal. Also, they’re only $5, I mean….do I need to say more?
While I have listed my top 10 foods that I get, I have to say that Costco always surprises me. Since I made this list, I’ve also tried egg white frittatas (delish), chickpea snacks, raw nuts, beyond meat cauliflower pizza, almond milk, mashed cauliflower, and the list goes on. I can’t say enough great things about the healthy options I find here, it’s just a matter of looking around and seeing what’s new. That’s another thing I love about this big-box store; there’s always something new to try! So next time you have an hour to burn, stop by your local Costco, check out the food items and let me know if you find something new and delicious!
We all have those moments where we eat great, nice and clean, step on the scale a day later and think “What? I didn’t lose anything?!”. Well, lucky for you, I’ve compiled a short list of things that could be tacking on more empty calories than you think. This is not to say that you can’t have these foods, but that you should just watch your portions on them and as always, talk to a dietitian for more help!
I used to be the kid that ordered a salad without dressing, I was so grossed out by it. Knowing that now, I can’t believe this was something I’d do! I love dressing on my salad as much as the next person but it’s important to make a conscious decision to try and keep calories low without sacrificing taste. My favorite salad dressing is honey mustard, which for one serving (2 tbsp), it can add as much as 200 calories to my already 300-400 calorie salad! So what can I do to help keep calories low but still get that honey mustardy taste? I made my own dressing of course! Mixing plain greek yogurt with equal parts honey and mustard was my solution and it’s one that I love doing every week. I get more protein, lower sugar, and can have more without it being even close to the same amount of calories.
So that covers honey mustard, but what about all those other dressing out there? Try and look for greek yogurt-based salad dressings in your local grocer. They are often lower in sugar and much lower in calories by almost half! If you really aren’t into making your own dressing or really don’t want to stray away from your go-to dressing, always always always be sure to check the nutrition label in the back for serving size. You’ll typically find that serving sizes of salad dressings are 2 tbsp. Stick with that serving size and no more! Otherwise you can add hundreds of calories to a healthy meal without even realizing it.
Oh yes, the ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise we all know and love. While these are always staples at your BBQ parties or 4th of July parties, they’re something that we’re adding to already high-calorie foods (hot dogs, burgers, pasta salads). So, what are some alternatives? Try and find a low sugar or no sugar added ketchup. The tomato-based staple can contain lots of extra sugar we don’t really need, so check your label and be sure there’s no more than 5g of added sugar. With mayo you can use greek yogurt instead. Just like the salad dressing, it will increase protein and decrease fat dramatically.
As for mustard, it’s already a low-calorie condiment, but will be higher in sodium. Fun fact: during a Spartan race I did one year, I saw a group of guys consuming mustard packets all throughout the course to stay hydrated because of the sodium content in them; GROSS! Sorry, but I’d rather do something else to stay hydrated. Relish is another condiment that’s very low in calories but adds tons of flavor to foods, so eat up!
We all know alcohol is calories and no one wants to hear that they should cut back or limit the amount of drinks they’re used to having. It’s more important to be aware of the ways in which alcohol can increase calories so drastically. Yes, hard liquor has sugar in it, but it’s the mixers you need to watch out for. It’s always better to use a seltzer/club soda as your mixer than sprite, coke, or any other high-calorie soda or juice for that matter. One vodka-tonic drink gets you 215 calories per drink, where a vodka-seltzer drink will only be around 75-100 calories. Be very conscious of tonic water. Many people think that because it’s “water” it’s got to be better than soda; FALSE. Tonic water is LOADED with sugar and only increases the chances you’ll be feeling your head pounding the next day. Ever had a gin and tonic hangover? Need I say more?
Butter; another great staple in our diet that only adds to the taste and deliciousness of foods. I am the first to go in on a good helping of bread and butter or loading up some cinnamon raisin toast with butter. Even though I love it, doesn’t mean I don’t watch how much of it I put on my foods. 1 tablespoon of butter can offer up about 100 calories. Butter is also high in saturated fat which increases our risk of heart disease, and boosts triglyceride and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. So what to use instead of butter? Olive oil! I always put olive oil on my vegetables before I roast or steam them. It’s also better to spray pans with olive oil rather than a spray non-stick concoction. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat which offers up wonderful health benefits. Being an Omega-3 fat, it will decrease your risk for heart disease and HDL (good cholesterol), but will also lower triglyceride levels and LDL.
Cream and Sugar
The two most common foods we throw into our coffee. When I first started drinking coffee, I would load it with vanilla creamer and all the sugar I wanted until it was sweet enough. I can’t even imagine what it would taste like to me now. Limiting the sugar and creamer you put in your coffee can dramatically decrease your simple sugar intake first thing in the morning. If you add 2 tbsp of sugar and 2 tbsp of creamer, you’re adding upwards of 10-15 grams of added sugar just in your cup of coffee! We’re only supposed to have a total of 26-34 grams in our ENTIRE day. So luckily for us there are plenty of great alternatives to make our coffee taste just as good. Try using coconut, oat milk, or almond milk creamer. Keep in mind, getting a flavored creamer can cut down on the need to add extra sugar. Also note that changing the flavor of your coffee takes some getting used to, so be patient and give it some time! It’s so important to limit added sugar intake to decrease risk of any co-morbidities.
Everything bagel seasoning has emerged as the latest thing to literally put on everything. So why not provide you with some knowledge on why it can be great for you and how you can use it more often! It all started with a grocery store called Trader Joe’s. They came out with a little bottle of magic called “Everything but the bagel” seasoning, and it sounds exactly like it is…everything but the bagel.
It’s simply the seasoning that you find on an everything bagel, but guess what….it’s good on everything!!
It’s comprised of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion flakes, dried garlic flakes, and sea salt. All these flavors formed into one make a super seasoning! So why should we use it on foods? The poppy and sesame seeds are going to offer up more healthy fats (omega-3s), offer more satiety in meals, and of course load it up with flavor. Calories are moderately low, so this seasoning is a great choice to add a burst of flavor. A serving size is considered ¼ tsp which offers up a whopping 5 calories, so while it still provides calories, it’s not going to load calories onto a meal like a sauce or marinade would. You do still have to be aware of the sodium, since sea salt is one of the ingredients, but as a whole, this can be a great choice on lots of different foods.
If you haven’t tried “everything” seasoning yet, here are a couple of foods you could try it with to see if you truly like it. I’ve personally thrown it onto my eggs (which is amazing), coated chicken and steak with it, added it to roasted veggies, and you could also add it to a soup, salad or avocado toast as well! There are SO many ways you can use this seasoning that it’s almost silly not to try it.
Finding this seasoning used to be much harder, but with the popularity of it growing, it’s easier to find. Some big stores you can find it in include Walmart, Costco,Giant, Redner’s and of course the OG Trader Joe’s. If you don’t feel like buying it, chances are you have all the ingredients to make it at home too!
In 2017, 2018, 2019, AND 2020, the top 3 New Year’s resolutions were to eat healthy, get more exercise, and save more money with the fourth runner up being not having a resolution at all (⅓ of population). Why do you think this is? Why do we always put so much pressure on ourselves to be a healthier person just because a new year is starting?
I thought 2020 would mean flying cars, ready-made meals with the snap of our fingers, and teleporting to anywhere in the world. Although we’ve had A LOT of ingenuity and progress in the world, we’re not quite that far yet. So thinking about what 2020 means to you is how you should reflect on this year and see where you want to go in the next decade. What will you bring to 2020? How do you want to change your life for this “new year”? There are a lot of things to put into practice to make sure you reach your goals, but new year’s resolutions are NOT one of them. Here are 5 quick reasons why…
We think more on a short-term basis
It all comes down to goal setting. When we set goals it’s important to make goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-related). We often think either too big or too small. If you say you’d like to lose 50 pounds, are you thinking within the next couple of months or, more realistically, in the next year? In order to make a concrete plan to meet that big goal, start setting small ones first. Set a goal to drink more water, get outside and walk for 30 minutes, anything that you know you can handle on a daily basis that will ultimately allow for consistent and steady weight loss.
2. We never make them realistic and often go too big
Making a resolution of “exercising more” when you haven’t been to a gym in the last year or even last few years, is only going to make you feel like it’s that much more of an arduous task. When you try to incorporate something that you’ve never really had as a part of your routine and all of a sudden, it’s a new goal, you need to figure out how this is actually going to work. How are you going to work it into your day? Are you even going to be able to? What will you do if your day goes to shit and you have absolutely NO time during the week to get there? Be realistic, because those small goals you’re reaching will ultimately lead you to that big goal you have in mind.
3. We never figure out our WHY
If a “new year” is the only time you think about wanting to eat healthier and move more, you’re probably not doing it for the right reasons. A healthy lifestyle isn’t something that you can just start all of a sudden, it takes months, years, even decades of nourishment to truly live a consistent, healthy life. Setting one or two goals at the beginning of the year isn’t going to change your life as a whole. It’s a commitment to yourself in LIFE, not just in January. Figure out the exact reason why you want to change. How badly do you want it? How much are you willing to commit? Nothing worth having ever comes easy, so you still need to be able to put work and effort into it.
4. They inevitably give us a sense of failure
The moment we stop and realize we’re not living up to our expectations, we give up and throw the rest of the year away. “Well, I guess I’ll just next week, or next year” and those years never actually come. Making a resolution just because you know it’s what you should do, doesn’t mean you’re going to do it. So making a goal that isn’t relevant to what you actually want to achieve, is only going to give you the sensation of failing yourself and that you’re not good or strong enough to stick with something. The last thing we need is feeling like we failed, we’re hard enough on ourselves as it is!
5. Why wait?
There’s never a “good” time to start taking an initiative towards your health, but the time is always now. Waiting for a new year gives you a false sense of hope that just because we’re writing a new date on things, means you’re going to change everything else in your life. If I were you, I’d start thinking more along the lines of the ⅓ of the population that doesn’t make a resolution at all. Stop giving yourself restrictions, rules and regulations. Live your life to the fullest and you won’t have the need to make resolutions. Start today! Not because it’s January, but because you WANT to change.