Eating Out

Wow, 3000 blog hits in one day?  Thanks, Rachel Ray!

Eating out… it’s part of our American culture.  We eat out to bond with friends and family, have a special night out with our significant other, or just avoid cooking.  Any diet that doesn’t allow you to ever eat out at restaurants is not sustainable!  The key is figuring out how to fit it into your healthy lifestyle, because most of us know, restaurant food can be a major fat trap… why do you think it tastes so darn good?  For my husband and I, we limit our eating out to once per week, for both nutritional and budgetary reasons.   Usually, I’ll try and select a balanced meal with the Cinch puzzle pieces — produce, protein, whole grain, and healthy plant-based fat — and also make special requests to cut down on the excess fat and calories.  And sometimes I just go all out and splurge.

Yesterday, we were on our way home from work and I was fantasizing about a healthy avocado wrap, when my husband unexpectedly pulled into an O’Charleys restaurant.  Apparently he was craving chicken tenders and nachos.  Um, yeah… Honey you enjoy those all by yourself…

O’Charleys is great for a yummy, cheap meal, but there is not a single entrée that I would consider “healthy” all by itself.  Even the salads are loaded with sugar, fat, and sodium.   However, they do have one of my very favorite salads, and I’m not even a salad fan – the California Shrimp Salad.  Picture and description below from the restaurant’s website:

Looks healthy, right?  Any idea how much this salad will set you back WITHOUT dressing?  Try 700 calories, 42 grams fat, and 53 carbs.  If you added the full ramekin (2oz) of dressing, it adds an additional 240 calories, 18 grams fat, and 8 grams sugar.  Crazy, right?  But there is still hope – just customize!  Here’s what I did:

  • Asked for the lunch portion – many restaurant will offer a smaller version of their entrees if you ask.  For this salad, the lunch portion is $3 cheaper and about 1/2 the size. 
  • Grill the shrimp without butter
  • Hold the blue cheese
  • Dressing on the side

The result: a delicious salad with just a hint of dressing (I only used a little bit of that ramekin on my bowl), roughly 350 calories, 10 grams fat, and 30 carbs.  Still looks great, right?  It was delicious!

O’Charley’s has another thing that my husband and I dearly love… Caramel Pie!  My husband was feeling rather devilish and trying to tempt me to order dessert, teasing me about being a “food nazi”.  I finally gave in and decided to splurge, but once again, customize!  Rather than the full-size serving, which will set you back 440 calories, 21 grams fat, and 51 carbs, we went with the “mini” and split it, which only cost me 160 calories, 7 grams fat, and 21 carbs.  Yum, yum, yum, without the guilt.

So there you have it, eating out on a diet and actually enjoying it. 

Today’s Menu & Workout Plan:

  • 5:30 am – Fruit & Nut bar, 1 cup carrot juice, vitamin
  • 6:30 am — 4 mile run / walk, strength training: arms
  • 9:30 am – Greek yogurt with blackberries, pistachios, wheat germ, honey
  • 2:00 pm – 3oz fish with mixed veggies and 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 6:00 pm – Apple, 10 mile bike ride
  • 8:00 pm – Meal-in-a-Bowl with brown rice, avocado, beans, tomato, salsa

Can a budget improve my health?

My husband and I are suddenly facing a drastic 60% decrease in household income and have to start making some major budget adjustments.  First to go are restaurant dinners, take-out lunches, and my almost daily indulgence from the vending machine or nearby bakery.  It’s no longer a matter of going out because we don’t feel like preparing food at home – we can’t afford it!  We have always been pretty health conscious, faithful gym-goers, and usually make good choices at the grocery store, but we both have a major sweet tooth and have been struggling with a few pudge pounds since college that just won’t budge.  Until we started analyzing our budget, we had no idea how much money were spending (or calories consuming) on eating out!   We have started getting creative with food.  Planning our menu in advance and buying only what we need at the grocery; preparing enough lunches every Sunday to last the whole week; and making dinners at home a special time to enjoy our food and talk about our days.  I also made room in our small yard for a garden and planted tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, spinach, and a few herbs.  I have never been more excited to eat vegetables! 

Also on the chopping block are most of our entertainment expenses.  So now we find ourselves getting more creative for entertainment – nightly walks around our neighborhood, biking on the country roads near our home, hiking, Scrabble marathons, and Netflix movies.

I’m very curious to see how these new budget cuts will affect my health.  Will I finally lose those stubborn 8 pounds now that I’m eating healthier and am more active on my down-time?  Only time will tell.