Make Any Restaurant Meal a Healthy Meal

Eating out can really feel like a mini-vacation - leading us to over indulge or make unhealthy ordering decisions - a side of fries here, a shared dessert there. It's not as easy to eat healthy when you're not in your own kitchen, but you can do it! Here are some pointers on how to dine out with your health and weight in mind: 

  • Know your cuisine triggers. If you know, for example, that Mexican is a trigger for you, try to push for the French bistro when you're making plans, especially in the first three weeks of your diet. Try to take an active role in the restaurant selection. If someone suggests Mexican, you can always say, "I had Mexican yesterday." 
  • Have two fiber crackers and drink eight ounces of water before you go out to curb your appetite.
  • Check the menu ahead of time; pick a couple of smart options in case the menu has changed.
  • Before you arrive, choose your "Angel Carb." This may be in the dish itself, such as a sauce, grains or potatoes, an extra glass of wine or a shared dessert.
  • Skip the bread basket. 
  • Make only one special request of the chef (if any).
  • Take a sip of your drink for a toast and save the rest to enjoy during the appetizer or entree. 
  • Slow down. Put your fork and knife down at least three times, have your water glass filled up three times and be the talker.
  • Choose grilled, roasted or baked foods.
  • The perfect finish to your meal is peppermint tea. It gives you a nice minty taste which helps put a stop to picking and tasting any other desserts on the table, and it gives you something to do with your hands.
  • Your kitchen is closed! The food and wine and relaxing experience of dining out can soften your resolve and tempt you into saving your dessert for home. You can imagine why this is a very bad idea. When you get home after a dinner out, there's no kitchen reentry except perhaps for a mug of tea. 

Wouldn't it be nice to have an nutrition-angel on your shoulder suggesting exactly what you should choose from any menu? Download my full dine out guide for free, complete with ordering recommendations for specific cuisines, so you'll never be stuck indecisively staring at a menu again.

3 Easy Dinners You Can Make @Home

Dinner can be tough. We get home from a long day of work and child care and exercise and errands and whatever else we fit into the daylight hours. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is create a home cooked meal - and let's face it, the kitchen can certainly be intimidating! Instead of reaching for the takeout menu, check out some of my favorite clean, simple and delicious meals below. You can make all of them in under half an hour, no matter how many mouths you have to feed, and with minimal clean up.

Fish in a Package

Take a non-fishy fish fillet like sole or tilapia. Put it on top of a piece of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) that is large enough to fully wrap the fish. Top with chopped cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of capers, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. Close up the parchment or foil, place the package on a baking sheet and bake in a 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Serve on top of steamed spinach. It can also be served with a baked sweet potato.

Healthy breaded chicken 2 ways

Take boneless, skinless chicken breast. Dip it in egg, then dip it in a bowl of gluten free breadcrumbs or unprocessed bran (or Fiber One or All-Bran cereal that’s been whirled in the processor or blender) to coat. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven until the chicken is cooked through. Then:

Make chicken parm lite. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, cover with one-half cup marinara sauce (I love the Cuina Antica brand because it has no added sugar) and sprinkle with shredded, low-fat mozzarella cheese. Serve over steamed spinach or shirataki noodles.

OR

Make chicken Milanese. While the chicken is baking, slice cherry tomatoes. Use olive oil spray to lightly coat some portabello mushrooms, and then grill the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms are done, add balsamic vinegar. When the chicken is done, place it on a plate adding arugula, cherry tomatoes, and a little bit of chopped garlic and balsamic vinegar on top. The mushrooms are an excellent side dish.

Broiled Salmon

Take a 4 oz. piece of salmon and take a pinch of salt/pepper and squeeze of lemon and place on top of al foil on a baking sheet in the toaster oven. Broil the salmon for 10-13 minutes until it is cooked through (and depending on how well-done you want it). You can also try with some Dijon mustard, tzatziki or a marinade (look for one with no sugar added, like Tessemae brand) on top as an alternative. Serve with steamed veggies and a baked sweet potato.


Dinner at home is taken care of, but what about all those nights out?

Wish you could have a nutritionist-angel on your shoulder, telling you what to order? Now you can! Download my complete set of dine out guides for free.

How to Order a Healthy Meal at ANY Japanese Restaurant

Heather Bauer, RD CDN

Heather Bauer, RD CDN

Imagine if you could have a nutrition-angel on your shoulder every time you head to a Japanese resto? Now you can! Welcome to The Food Fix. Here's what I recommend:

APPETIZER CHOICEs

  • Miso soup (if you are not salt sensitive)
  • Mixed green salad with half a serving of the ginger dressing.

ENTREE CHOICES

  • Chicken or salmon teriyaki with double steamed veggies (no rice) 
  • Six-piece maki roll with four pieces of sashimi
  • Six pieces of sashimi and a side order of oshitashi (spinach). 

AVOID THESE

  • Dishes described as Agemono or tempura, both of which are deep fried
  • Spider, dynamite, spicy rolls, and eel. 
  • Sushi rolls made with cream cheese and too much avocado

MORE SUGGESTIONS

  • Look for rolls wrapped in cucumber instead of rice (naruto style).
  • Edamame usually comes salted it is soy beans, so this works best for vegetarians or slower eaters who will only have a few pieces.
  • You can also always sub the rice in a hand roll for cucumber.
  • Always request lite soy sauce and add wasabi and ice cubes to help dilute it and no refills. 
  • Eat with chopsticks to help slow you down.
  • Be careful with sake. It is more calories than you think. Six ounces of sake is about 240 calories versus 150 calories for six ounces of wine.

Want my complete set of FREE dine out guides?

Why You Should Slow Down and Enjoy Your Food

In our fast-paced culture, it's no surprise we scarf down food as we are busy doing other things -- working, cooking, watching TV, socializing. Before you know it, that delicious meal you sat down to enjoy is gone, and you aren't exactly satisfied. Paying more attention to what you're eating helps you consume less, improves digestion, enhances your dining experience, and allows the natural signals of fullness to register.

Here are my top tips for slowing down at meal time:

  • Use chopsticks for all cuisines when you’re eating at home. It will automatically slow down your rate of eating and the amount of food you’re going to eat. If you’re a pro with chopsticks, make sure to use them in the opposite hand.
  • When you’re out at a restaurant, make sure to eat with your non-writing hand, be the talker, not the eater, put your fork and knife down after every few bites, and have your water glass filled up at least three times.
  • When eating at home, take a few minutes to decompress after a long day instead of diving straight for the fridge. Don't give food the power to relieve your stress! Also use a timer until you get used to eating at a slower pace.

Strategic Snacking Tips

Strategic snacking is one of the most effective weapons you have against a poor food choice or (shudder!) a binge. When you keep your hunger in check with an appropriate snack, you're making it much easier to stick to your healthy food choices. But there's a key word here - strategic. If you snack mindlessly, you'll be adding extra calories to your daily intake without accomplishing your goal of minimizing hunger.

Here are my top Strategic Snacking Tips:

  • Know yourself. Try going from lunch to dinner without a snack. If you find that you are able to make good choices at dinner and that you're not utterly starving, you probably don't need a snack. If, on the other hand, you're desperate to eat just about anything by the time 5pm rolls around, you are a good candidate for a mid-afternoon snack.
  • Watch your weekends. Keep lots of healthy snacks on hand for weekends. It's better to over-indulge in a healthy snack than to lose control at a brunch buffet.
  • Don't be a health-snack-nut. Even portion controlled snacks can pile on calories and a lot of people find it impossible to stop at one little snack pack. Moreover, for many dieters, the practice is worse than the calories. Once you get accustomed to downing a nibble here and a bite there it can be a hard habit to break.

When you start thinking of snacking as a strategic way to control your hunger, it can be one of your best healthy eating tools. 

How To Combat Mindless Eating

We hear a lot about “mindful eating” these days, but what does that even mean? To me, it’s about slowing down and taking a few minutes to enjoy your food, instead of mindlessly popping chip after chip into your mouth while binge-watching TV. Here are a few of my tips to keep yourself from such mindless eating:

  • Buy finite foods. For example, instead of the giant bag of trail mix, opt for bars. Then there’s no chance of you eating the entire bag that contains 10 servings before you know it.
  • Use a controlled portion dinner. An organic frozen meal is better to come home to after a busy day than picking at every little thing in your fridge.
  • Food log! When you have to write down what you eat, you’ll be more mindful of what you consume. Remember, if you bite it, write it.

Water, Water Everywhere

Water is one of the key ingredients to a healthy diet. It's important to keep your body hydrated for a number of reasons. Did you know that our body uses 2 to 3 quarts of water per day to keep up basic functions such as body temperature regulation and metabolic processes? As a point of reference, that's anywhere from 64 to 96 fluid ounces of liquid! Not only is water needed for homeostasis, but it is essential for joints and muscle mass. Think of it as the fluffy pillow of fluid between your bone and cartilage. Don't be discouraged, though; there are plenty of ways to incorporate water into your diet. It doesn't have to be all about plain old H2O! Keep these tips in mind as you "wet" your appetite.

1. Skip the Cubism: It's easy to get your chill on while keeping hydrated. Toss some fresh berries, sliced peaches and pineapple wedges into the freezer. The next time you're craving a chilly refresher, use the frozen fruit instead of regular ice cubes. Not only will the fruit cool down your glass of water, but it also adds taste without tons of calories! Once you've slurped down your beverage, enjoy the fruit for a boost of filling fiber.

2. Find Some Flavor: I often hear complaints from clients about the lack of flavor in water. No argument here -- water definitely isn't the most daring of beverage choices. Keep it interesting by adding natural flavor such as lemon and lime slices, cucumber and/or mint. I love lemons and limes for the immune system (very high vitamin C content), cucumber is an anti-inflammatory and mint can help aid in digestion. 

3. It Doesn't Have to Come from the Tap: There are some alternatives to plain H20 that you can incorporate into your diet to keep even water from getting boring. Seltzer is a good alternative if you crave the pop and fizz of soda. Coconut water is also a great option, since it has all the benefits of regular water plus a ton of electrolytes and potassium, while still being low in calorie. Make sure you find one with no added sugar. 

4. Get It in Early: This is one of my favorite tips to give to clients. Aim to reach at least half of your hydration goal by noon. This way, you'll feel less pressured as the day wears on. I call it the Liter by Lunch. It's not uncommon for one to let a whole morning pass by and consume only a single cup of coffee. Instead, commit to a full glass before your AM java jolt. Keep a water bottle in front of your computer screen or by your phone at all times. We use these items so frequently, and the visual reminder of water next to them can result in increased sippage!

5. Consider Double-Fisting: Just kidding, well, sort of. Before heading out for a long night, you'll want to start off with one large bottle of water. This sets the hydration precedence for the entire night. Follow up by alternating between one alcoholic drink and one non-alcoholic drink. This doesn't mean you can imbibe soda, juice or tea instead. Keep your non-alcoholic choice to either water or seltzer. Be sure to steer clear of tonic. People tend to think it's similar to seltzer or club soda, but it actually contains just as many calories as soda and juice.

6. Eat to Hydrate: Don't get caught up in thinking that all your liquid requirements have to come from a glass. There are plenty of foods that have high water content to quench your thirst. Celery takes the prize by having 95% water content, in addition to essential electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium and potassium. Veggies like cucumbers and bell peppers pack a satisfying crunch AND tons of H2O! Or choose fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, and cantaloupe for seasonal satisfaction. Not only do these foods up your hydration ante, but they also have a significant filling effect on the stomach. This means you'll consume less but feel fuller. Perfect for weight loss!

Water plays a significant role in weight loss, athletic performance and day-to-day functioning. So the next time you want to reach for that iced tea or soda, consider the above-mentioned tips. Keeping hydrated has never been so easy!