From the Desk of The Nutty Nutritionist

Archive for the ‘Dining Out’ Category

Ten “Laws” of Healthy Weight Control

In Dining Out, Weight Loss, Wellness on March 21, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Similar to January 1st, the first day of spring extends an invitation for new beginnings and a fresh start.  How have you been doing with your promise to live healthier this year?  Are your health habits making you feel like a beautiful rose blossoming in the sun or more like a shriveled crocus getting its head lopped off by a bunny rabbit?  Do you still desire to shed those unwanted pounds before the boat goes in the water and the lazy days of summer begin?  Whether you want to feel better, lose weight, or prevent gaining a few extra pounds this season, incorporating these ten basic lifestyle “rules” can help you look and feel as bright as a sunny clear blue sky:

1.  Calorie awareness is essential

  • calories in (food) = calories out (activity) = weight maintenance
  • calories in < calories out = weight loss
  • calories in > calories out = weight gain
  • doesn’t matter the source of calories–if you eat too much, you will gain weight
  • overly restricting calories shuts your metabolism down so DO NOT undereat either (see #2)

2.  Do not eat less than 1200 calories per day

  • read labels and examine online resources to increase awareness and count calories if necessary
  • women:  aim for 300-400 calories/meal; 100-150 calories/snack
  • men:  aim for 400-600 calories/meal;100-200 calories/snack

3.  Monitor your current food intake and exercise habits regularly

  • record what you eat, how much you eat, & when you eat to uncover unhealthy habits
  • make comments regarding your eating situations–boredom, stress, watching TV, restaurant choices, etc.
  • select specific habits you are willing to change and make a plan to follow through

4.  Set small, achievable goals based on food diary revelations, such as:

  • increase fruits & vegetables, whole grains, water, exercise, fish, and/or making healthier snack choices
  • decrease sugary beverages, alcohol, fried foods, restaurant meal frequency, “indulgences”, sedentary activity

5.  Plan ahead for small, frequent meals to manage appetite

  • no meal skipping, as this just revs your appetite up for an evening binge
  • eat a healthy meal or snack every 3-4 hours
  • bring healthy choices with you when “out & about”  (pack your lunch!)
  • grocery shop from a list 1-2 x/week, and stick to that list!

6.  Adopt habits you can maintain long-term

  • no extreme dieting—this is only a temporary fix and will set you up for “yo-yo” weight fluctuations
  • no foods are completely off limits unless you choose them to be  (deprivation = binge later)
  • healthy weight loss is 1-2 pounds/week — patience is a virtue!
  • “weight loss plateaus” will happen every 10-20 pounds — you must change up your diet and exercise routine frequently to keep your body from getting complacent
  • if you struggle to develop a plan on your own, hire a nutrition professional (like me!) to assist you

7.  Exercise is essential

  • regular activity that increases your heart rate and breathing rate is best
  • building muscle increases metabolism (which increases “calorie burn”)
  • plan exercise time into your schedule
  • choose activities you enjoy
  • the more the better—aim for 60 minutes a day as often as possible (break it into smaller chunks if necessary)

8.  Get adequate sleep

  • 7-8 hours best for most people
  • lack of sleep increases appetite and decreases satiety (feelings of fullness)
  • feeling well-rested keeps you motivated to maintain your healthy habits

9.  Manage stress

  • chronic stress increases cortisol levels leading to increased belly fat
  • feeling anxious & stressed increases the likelihood of emotional overeating
  • exercise is an excellent stress manager

10.  Make smart choices when dining out at least 80% of the time

  • Beware of calories—obtain nutrition info from outlets & online to increase awareness of your choices  (try to stay between 300-600 calories most of time)
  • Breakfast–avoid bagels, muffins, smoothies;  choose egg white wraps, oatmeal, Egg McMuffin at “quick grab” restaurants
  • Lunch–avoid pizza, pasta, high fat meats, large sandwiches; choose salad, soup, and sandwich combinations instead (but avoid creamy dressings and soups)
  • Dinner—choose chicken, turkey, and fish with vegetables/salad;  limit starches & bread; if portions are large, share or take half home for another meal
  • Coffee houses—many specialty drinks are LOADED with calories

I can taste a healthy and happy summer already!  Can you?

Any questions?  Feel free to ask! 

Live well!  Be well!


“Super Size Me” remains alive and well…

In Dining Out on September 22, 2010 at 8:29 PM

Remember the movie, “Super Size Me”, in which the filmmaker made himself eat nothing but McDonald’s, morning, noon, and night, for 30 consecutive days?  By month’s end, not only was he unable to force down another french fry without gagging, he felt lethargic, had gained substantial amounts of weight, and his cholesterol and triglyceride levels shot through the roof.   The final “burger and fries decomposition” scene was shocking to most viewers.  So much so, that the home of the golden arches responded by phasing out its super size fries and drinks in 2004.  (the company actually denies this correlation, but the timing sure smells filet-o-fishy to me…)

Even if restaurant foods shun labels such as “Super Sized”, excessively large portions are very much alive and well. Most Americans grab lunch, dinner, and/or snacks (hello 3 pm coffee!) “on the go” 3-5 times per week.  Too many uninformed choices, and you can end up like the sick, bloated chump mentioned above…

For frequent and infrequent diners alike,  I am offering suggestions on how to help keep yourself from becoming unhealthy and super-sized:

SANDWICHES:  order only half a sandwich and add a cup of soup or half salad to round out the meal.  Many full deli style sandwiches can run you 700-1000 calories a pop.  Wow.  The same goes for most hamburgers.

BAGELS:  one 4 oz bakery style bagel from Panera, Starbucks, Einstein Bros, Brueggers, etc will set you back 300-400 calories—essentially the same as eating 4 slices of bread.  And this does not even count the cream cheese.  The next time bagels show up at your morning office meeting, eat only half if you must.  If you already ate breakfast, avoiding the bagel all together is your best defense.  Just because the food is there or is “free”, does not mean you have to eat it. 

MUFFINS:  do not grab one for breakfast: white flour, sugar, butter…equals dessert.  Not only do these provide minimal nutrition, but they are WAY TOO BIG—often weighing in at 5 oz and 400-500 calories.  Skip them at your afternoon coffee break too.

PIZZA:  personal pan pizzas are pretty much guaranteed to get personal with your waist, hips, and thighs.  Most “individual” sized pies will cost you 700-1200 calories if you consume the whole thing.  Split with a friend or take at least 1/2 home with you for another meal.

SMOOTHIES:  juice and fruit sound noble enough, but at 16-30 oz, the calories get way out of control.  Depending on size and added ingredients, they can range anywhere from 280-800 calories.  At this cost to your waistline, they are not a health food.

PASTA:  White pasta is very easy to overeat and by the time your brain registers that you are full, you are actually stuffed to the hilt.  Avoid this pitfill by ordering pasta as a SIDE DISH along with lean meat, salad, and vegetables.  If you must order the plate o’ pasta, request a luncheon size portion instead.

COOKIES:  do not buy cookies from a restaurant!  Starbucks and Panera chocolate chunk cookie delights will cost you 360-450 calories a pop, and that is without any super-sized “frou frou” coffee accompaniment.  You are better off packing a couple of Oreo cookies (140 calories) along with you for a sweet treat with your afternoon coffee.

Don’t plead ignorance when it comes to restaurant selections—thanks to the internet, it is a snap to look up nutrition information these days.  Spend a few minutes surfing the websites of places you frequent.  Believe me, it will be much easier to avoid temptation when you are an informed consumer!

To your health!

Healthy Restaurant Choices

In Dining Out on July 26, 2010 at 11:23 PM

Did you know that the recent healthcare legislation includes a provision requiring big restaurant chains (with 20 or more outlets) to list calorie info on menus and drive-thru signs?  Calorie counts will have to be listed for all standard menu choices, plus items on salad bars or buffets, but not for daily specials and limited-time offers.   Exactly when this regulation kicks in will ultimately be up to the FDA, but the specific rules should be set by March 2011.  Vending machines selling food items will also be required to display complete nutrition information somewhere in each location.  This is GREAT news for those of us wanting to take the mystery out of menu selections.

To tide you over until the law takes effect, I will share with you some of the healthier options at a few national restaurant chains:


-Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa—comes with rice pilaf & steamed vegetables–340 calories—add a side salad with 1 1/2 Tbsp. light ranch dressing–75 calories  (415 calorues total)

-Baja Chicken Roll Up—490 calories

-Grilled  Citrus Chicken Salad–tossed in citrus vinaigrette–240 calories

-Sizzling Chicken Skillet–360 calories

-Teriyaki Shrimp Skewers—with rice pilaf & steamed veggies–260 calories

Red Lobster:

-Fresh fish, grilled or broiled.  Order the lunch-sized portion (5 oz.) of trout or tilapia with basil olive oil (135 calories for tilapia; 233 calories for trout)

-Snow Crab Legs–forgo the butter & season with fresh lemon–262 calories

-Grilled Chicken—served over wild rice pilaf–387 calories

-add a fresh garden salad with light vinaigrette to the above for an extra 70 calories

-add a side of steamed broccoli for 60 calories

-add a baked potato & top with pico de gallo (instead of butter) for 190 calories

Olive Garden:

-Linguine Alla Marinara–lunch sized portion, add grilled chicken–457 calories

-Capellini Pomodoro–lunch sized portion, top with grilled chicken–529 calories

-Spaghetti with Meat Sauce—lunch portion, without grated cheese–433 calories

-Shrimp Primavera–lunch portion—497 calories

-add side salad with Low Fat Italian Dressing for 70 calories

-Bowl of Minestrone, side salad with Low Fat Italian Dressing, & one breadstick–391 calories

I will keep you posted as the menu calorie count regulations fall into place over the next year or so.

Dine out and enjoy!

Confessions of an Irish Nutritionist

In Dining Out, What I ate today on March 22, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Being of Irish descent, I look forward to celebrating my heritage on St. Patrick’s Day by eating corned beef and cabbage, drinking a pint or two of Guinness, and listening to some traditional Irish music at a local pub or restaurant.  This year was a little more social than others—St. Paddy’s Day turned into a weeklong celebration beginning with the “St. Practice Day” party at Bluefinn on Saturday, March 13th and concluding with a  small dinner party at home on Saturday, March 20th.  While having so much fun, I was ignorant to my consumption of 2485 calories in alcoholic beverages over the past week.  (This figure does not include a few extra desserts that popped in as well…) I’m not shy to admit that I have always been a “social drinker”, consuming anywhere from 1-4 alcoholic beverages over the course of a week, depending on my activities.  Things got a little out of hand this week as I had more social activities scheduled than “normal”.     It is important for me to point out that despite my excessive caloric intake, I never got intoxicated, as I paced my consumption over the course of an entire evening.    Even someone who drinks moderately can end up with excessive calories that are likely to be ignored.  Most people acknowledge that fast food and desserts are “fattening”, but are less likely to consider alcohol intake into their dieting strategies.   It is my hope that  you will learn from my carelessness this week…

 A serving of alcohol is considered 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. wine , or 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits.  Generally, this amount of regular beer will contain 150 calories (200 if it’s a pint);  most table wines will contain 100-110 calories a glass (185 calories if it’s a dessert Port);  and 1 oz. of 80 proof liquor contains about 85 calories .  Mixed drinks are bound to get you into the most trouble as they usually contain multiple shots of liquors/sweetened liquers/juices/soda, etc.

Let’s take a look at my St. Patrick’s Week—YIKES!    Remember that I am revealing this to help you, so please forgive me for my sins…

Sat. March 13th:  Out to dinner with friends and then Bluefinn for St. Pat’s party:  Pint of Pale Ale with dinner (200); 2 pints of Guinness at bar (335—fyi: Guinness is lower in calories than all other regular beers); Kamikaze shot (235)—thanks a lot, Lisa!  😉  Wow… 770 calories.

Tues. March 16:  Out for Sushi dinner at Kona Grill with hubby:  2 Cosmopolitans    350 calories

Wed. March 17:  Pint of Guinness in honor of St. Patrick’s Day   170 calories

Thurs. March 18:  Hosted a jewelry party for friends:  2 glasses of Chardonnay   200 calories

Fri March 19:  Out for dinner and music with friends:  6 oz. Pinot Grigio (130 cal) with dinner; later in the lounge: Snickers Martini for dessert (455 calories!!! I should know better… contained Frangelico, creme de cocao, Bailey’s, 1/2 & 1/2);  and 5 oz Red Zin (110 cal) by the end of the evening.  That darn dessert martini killed me…695 calories worth of alcohol for the night.  I don’t even have anyone to blame for my lack of discipline—my friend Laura wanted to order the “Oatmeal Cookie” martini, but she decided to PASS ON IT!  Smart girl.  I should have followed her lead.   (Of course, we should never blame anybody for our own transgressions, right??)

Sat. March 20:  dinner party with friends at home:  2 glasses Pinot Grigio (200 cal) during appetizers & dinner; 1 glass of Pinot Noir (1oo cal) while playing Rockband on XBox.   My friend Angela needed help finishing off the bottle of red, right??   300 calories.

Total alcohol calories for the week:  2485   (FYI:  it takes 3500 extra calories to gain a pound of fat)

OUCH!!!  Time for detox… I have sworn off alcohol for the time being and will not allow myself any desserts for the whole next week.  Daily exercise is also on the agenda.

Got a night out planned soon?  Here are some suggestions to help keep you from consuming too many calories from alcohol:

1.  Don’t drink alcohol!   Of course, the best calorie-saving choice, but if you desire to do so, alternate alcoholic beverages with a large glass of water to help keep you hydrated and slow down your pace of drinking.

2.  Avoid calorie bombs such as dessert drinks (see above);  fruity, frozen concoctions (Pina Coladas can contain up to  800 calories depending on the size); and drinks with multiple alcohols and mixers (a Long Island Iced Tea typically contains 780 calories per drink!!)  Even an innocent looking Bailey’s Irish Creme shot to mix in your coffee has 130 calories in it…

3.  Choose diet mixers instead of regular soda and juices (an 8oz. Vodka Cranberry has 200 calories)

4.  Turn wine into a “spritzer” or a lager into a “shandy” to dilute the alcohol content.  (alcohol has 7 calories per gram)

5.  Plan alcohol into your daily calorie “quota”.  (i.e.  instead of those two Oreos, have a glass of wine, NOT BOTH!!!)

6.  Don’t skip meals or drink on an empty stomach—this increases the rate of alcohol absorption which can lead to low blood sugar and the resulting increase in appetite, also known as  “the munchies”.  Alcohol also reduces your inhibitions so you are more likely to throw your diet goals out the window and overindulge.

A final note:  drinking in  “moderation” is considered no more than 1 drink per day for a woman and no more than 2 drinks per day for a man.

I have learned my lesson.  Have you???

What’s in Your Lunch?

In Dining Out on March 20, 2010 at 4:30 PM

When most of us put a sandwich together, it usually involves slapping a slice or two of meat and cheese between two slices of bread, and a spread of mayo or mustard.  For the more ambitious sandwich makers, a slice of tomato and a lettuce leaf may also be added.  In a matter of minutes, we have a quick and easy meal comprised of at least two food groups (protein, grain, and maybe vegetables)—ideal for a packed lunch or quick dinner for someone eating alone.    Using 100% whole grain bread, lean meats such a turkey, chicken breast, ham, or  roast beef, and lower fat cheeses can make this sandwich not only filling, but nutritiously sound as well.  Add an apple, orange, or a handful of grapes, and you have yourself a satisfying meal.

Restaurant chefs take a slightly different approach to their creations.  With the various fillings and fixings thrown into the mix, deli and restaurant sandwiches can contain as much or more than a day’s worth of calories, fat, and sodium.  For example, a Panera Italian Combo on Ciabatta bread contains 1040 calories, 45 grams fat (17 grams are the artery-clogging saturated kind), and 3020 mg sodium!  (FYI:  heart healthy guidelines recommend that a person consume no more than 15-18 grams of saturated fat per day and less than 2000 sodium per day.)

Here are a few tips to make sure your simple lunch doesn’t equal a full day of meals:

1.  The easiest way to cut the negative nutritional impact is to order half a sandwich.  Many restaurants offer half sandwiches on the menu, but for those that don’t, take the other half home with you for a ready-made meal later or for the next day.

2.  Ask for oil, mayo, and other spreads on the side and apply them sparingly.  These “extras” often account for most of the extra fat and calories in sandwiches.

3.  Order a 1/2 and 1/2 combo such as sandwich and soup or sandwich and salad.  Before you plunge into the sandwich, start your meal with a filling cup or bowl of vegetable/bean soup or a green salad (sans cheese, nuts, croutons, bacon, etc…) with low-fat dressing.  High-fiber and high-fluid starters such as these help fill you up and keep you satisfied without an abundance of calories.  Now the half sandwich won’t look so small anymore either.  For those of you striving for overall wellness regardless of weight status, this is a great way to get extra servings of health-promoting vegetables as well.  Make it a habit!

Here are a few healthy HALF SANDWICH options from a few nationwide chains:

Au Bon Pain Turkey & Swiss on Farmhouse Roll:  320 calories

Bob Evan’s Chicken Salad:  319 calories

Boston Market Chicken Carver:  375 calories

Cosi Turkey Light : 390 calories  (for the whole sandwich)

Panera Napa Almond Chicken Salad on Sesame Semolina: 340 calories

Panera Smoked Turkey Breast on Country:  280 calories

Panera Chicken Caesar on Three Cheese:  360 calories

Panera Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat:  380 calories

Panera Mediterranean Veggie on Tomato Basil:  300 calories

Since you all seem to LOVE it when I shock you with calorie revelations (he he he), I will wrap up this entry with some more “impressive” stats on other popular sandwiches:

Tuna Melt:  790 calories

BLT:  630 calories

Club:  660 calories

Tomato, Basil, & Mozzarella:  600 calories

Grilled Ham & Cheese:  510 calories

The best solution:  PACK YOUR LUNCH 😉

A Less Than Typical Monday…

In Dining Out, What I ate today on March 9, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Today was going to be a busy day, so I decided to wake up at 6:30 AM, brew some coffee, and head down to the basement to enliven myself with 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer.  This afforded me the opportunity to watch “The Today Show” and catch up on all the Oscar wins from the previous night.  (The Hurt Locker was an amazing movie…)   As I have mentioned before, having equipment readily accessible to me in my basement makes it possible to roll out of bed (literally) and start my day with vitality and energy.  Please note:  I RARELY feel awake and motivated to exercise at this hour of the morning…but, I know that when I am finished working up a sweat, I am going to feel great and be ready to embrace the day.  (Exercise is my “happy pill”.)  I even go as far as have my coffee cup on a stool next to my exercise machines.  Every 5 minutes, I stop and take a sip—whatever works, right???  Keeping thoughts of how great I will feel when I am finished, along with setting my “sweat” clothes out the night before, is enough for me to stick to my plan.

Eating breakfast post-workout makes it very easy to eat healthy:  7:45 AM

2 Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Wheat Biscuits

1 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk

hard-boiled egg

clementine orange


I had a doctor appointment in Ann Arbor this morning scheduled for 10 AM.  This was a routine visit, and it usually takes a maximum of two hours from start to finish.  I am in the habit of bringing a snack with me wherever I go, so I washed up an apple for the ride home around noon.

Well, things don’t always go as planned now, do they???  I was not prepared for the LONG wait this morning: the doctor didn’t see me until 12:30 pm.  Grrr…  I was getting hungry sitting out in the waiting room for so long.  Ideally, I should have packed nuts with me, as they are handy to stash in my purse to keep hunger at bay as needed.   By the time I left the doctor’s office around 2:15 pm, I was famished!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say, this glitch threw my whole day off.  Good thing I didn’t schedule too many work commitments for today, or I would have really been in trouble.   I still had many tasks to accomplish yet, so I decided to stop at Olga’s Kitchen on the way out of Ann Arbor, rather than waiting until I got home to eat.  (there is a new one located right off of Plymouth Rd. near US-23, for those of you Ann Arborites who are familiar with the area…) 

I LOVE Olga’s Kitchen.  For fellow enthusiasts, you know it is all about that soft, warm & sweet Original Olga bread—forget those “low carb ” or “almost completely fat free ” options that they advertise.  If I go to Olga’s, I’m gonna get the real thing, gosh darnit 😉  Let’s talk about this luscious bread for a moment, shall we?  Can you take a stab at how many calories you think are in one piece?  Looks innocent enough, doesn’t it?  A slice of regular sandwich bread typically has about 80-100 calories; a typical Greek-style pita has about 160 calories (equivalent to two slices of bread).  Both are reasonable.  However, ONE piece of Olga bread has 320 calories in it.   YOW!  That is equivalent to nearly 3 1/2 slices of regular bread!!!  How on earth does it have so many calories???  I’ve looked up the recipe—it is a concoction of fat, sugar, and refined wheat flour.  No wonder it is so soft and moist—sugar acts as a humectant, attracting and retaining moisture—that is predominately why so many breads contain HFCS, and why those without added sugars tend to go stale and hard very quickly.  Yep, Olga bread is essentially dessert.  Who knew???

When I go to Olga’s, I get either a salad with chicken (plus side of Olga bread) or the Original Olga sandwich (lamb/beef, tomatoes, and Olgasauce).  Fortunately, Olga’s website provides the nutrition facts.  I decided to order the “Apple Pecan Chicken Salad” yesterday— a salad with chicken, fruit, and nuts sounds virtuous enough,  doesn’t it?  Not so fast my friends!  If I were to eat the entire salad, it would have loaded my belly with 810 calories, according to the website.   Add the 320 calorie Olga bread, and my lunch would have been out of the ballpark at 1130 calories…

Because of my excessive hunger, nothing hit the spot better than the Olga bread.  Ate the whole darn thing—being overly hungry is a dangerous thing…  Fortunately,  I had the smarts to wrap up half the salad to take home for next day’s lunch.  So, half salad and bread cost me 725 calories.  Consider this:  the Original Olga sandwich has 650 calories.  Hmmm…it appears that a salad on the menu is more fattening than a lamb and beef sandwich.  Eye opening, isn’t it?  The calories in the salad come from pecans, fresh apples, dried cranberries (usually coated in sugar), feta, chicken and a more than necessary amount of balsamic vinigrette dressing tossed in.  Despite the perceived health benefits of these ingredients, the calories add up fast.

Dinner  7:30 pm was at home

3 oz Bell and Evans chicken breast grilled with 1.5 Tbsp. BBQ sauce  (the chicken breast was actually 5 oz, but I chose to only eat part of it and save the remainder for a salad topper later in the week)

1 cup steamed redskins with a slathering of “Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil”

1 1/2 cups steamed fresh asparagus


As you can see, I had a challenging food day.  Hopefully you will learn from my mistakes and take away the importance of using the nutrition information chain restaurants provide before you head out for your next meal.

A typical Sunday at home

In Dining Out, What I ate today on March 8, 2010 at 9:06 PM

By request, I am going to start generating more entries that involve my own food choices.  Since I have a sporadic schedule and dine out very frequently, it may be helpful for you to see that even a dietitian needs to be mindful of what she eats and make conscious choices to be healthy every day.  While I have been successful maintaining my weight over the years,  it has not come easy.  If I paid little attention to what I ate, how much I ate, and when I ate, I’d gain weight just like everybody else.  So, let’s analyze what I have been eating lately, shall we?

SUNDAY March 7, 2010

Breakfast:  10:30 AM

3 egg omelet made with sauteed spinach & tomatoes (in olive oil) and 2 Tbsp. feta cheese

3 slices of center cut pork bacon 

2 slices of whole wheat toast with a small amount of “spreadable butter w/ canola oil”

1 cup mixed fruit  (cantaloupe, honeydew melon, pineapple, grapes)

coffee with fat free 1/2 & 1/2


Hmmm…this seems a bit unhealthy now, doesn’t it???

My husband likes to make breakfast for me on weekends.  Sweet of him, right?  Of course!  He likes to make traditional “big breakfasts”, which often include 3-egg omelets and bacon.    He finds joy in cooking for me, so I am most certainly not going to scoff at what he chooses to make.  Fortunately, he is considerate of my desire to eat healthy, so he usually makes me a veggie-filled omelet, and includes a side of fruit as well.  With my natural tendency towards high cholesterol, I really should limit my egg and bacon consumption.  We don’t have bacon every weekend, but if I do have it, I limit my serving to 2-3 slices…  I don’t particularly like turkey bacon, but it is lower in saturated fat and would be a healthier choice for my cholesterol.  Obviously, I am FAR from the perfect eater!!!!

After breakfast, I went to my health club and did circuit weight training for 60 minutes.  By continuously alternating between upper body and lower body exercises, I can transition from one exercise to another without rest breaks.  This keeps my heart rate elevated and allows me to burn more calories during and after my workout 🙂  I encourage you to give this method of weight training a try if you haven’t already.

Lunch:  2:30 pm

I am a sucker for Jimmy John’s subs, and there is one just up the road from the gym.   How convenient, eh?  We had already decided before I left the house that I would bring home a couple of subs with me–this afforded me the opportunity to “prethink” my order—a critical factor if you want to refrain from impulsive, unhealthy choices.   At JJ’s, I always order one of two subs:  #1 Italian (678 calories) or #5 Vegetarian (473 calories)—I looked the calorie counts up online some time ago.  Since I had just worked out, it made the most sense for me to try to keep my lunch under 600 calories—why spoil all that hard work, right?  I always substitute vinegar and oil for the mayo, so that probably saves me about 75 calories off the caloric “cost” of the sub.

Upon getting home, I added a handful of tortilla chips and a pickle to my plate.   Water to drink.

Total “damage”— 400 calorie sub, 140 calorie chips, 10 calorie pickle spear = 550 calories.  Great!

Now, if I would have chosen the Italian sub today, my whole lunch would have contained over 800 calories… not exactly ideal for weight management and it would have essentially negated all the effort of my workout. 

Some friendly advice:  Do NOT look at “exercise days” as a license to overeat.  If you do that, you will still gain weight despite the exercise.

Dinner:  7:30 pm

1 1/2 cups of homemade spaghetti with meat sauce:  whole wheat rotini with Piedmontese ground sirloin, marinara sauce, and 2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese.

Tossed salad with greens, cucumber, tomato, and a couple tbsp. of Ken’s Steak House Lite Northern Italian dressing.

No bread with this meal to sop up the sauce—too many carbs and too many calories!!!

Bite-size peanut butter cup for dessert


No snacking was necessary today—by waking up late, my meals were pushed close enough together.  Like most people, it is not unusual for me to consume more calories on weekends than on weekdays.  The secret to weight maintenance is keeping calories in check on weekdays to afford yourself a little more freedom of choice on weekends.  Sounds like a reasonable trade-off, right?  Note how I said “a little more freedom”—giving yourself too much freedom is dangerous for weight control, especially if you are someone who loves to eat and you keep too many “vices” within reach…

If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to ask.

Restaurant Gimmicks for 2010

In Dining Out, Trends on March 2, 2010 at 10:10 PM

Restaurants often develop new menu items in the attempt to attract more business.  With today’s fast-paced lifestyles, more health conscious consumers are turning to choices at Panera Bread, Chipotle, and Cosi for a quick meal on the run.  As a result, tradionally unhealthy restaurant chains are trying to hone in on the action by coming up with their own “healthy choice” options.  I’ll help you sort out which new items are worth paying attention to and which should be ignored.

Starbucks is adding a variety of panini sandwiches of 400 calories or less and will begin promoting all of its beverages under 90 calories.  The new food items will also include two new breakfast sandwiches.  Keeping a meal to 400-500 calories makes sense, just be careful to order a zero calorie beverage rather than a Cafe Mocha to go with that sandwich!!!

Dunkin Donuts has introduced a “DDSmart” menu that features “better-for-you-choices that keep you running” and include hot and cold light beverage options, muffins, and breakfast sandwiches.  Muffins are basically dessert, low fat or not; bagels are mostly refined wheat flour–not much of a nutritional powerhouse.  I suggest limiting your trips to DD.

Taco Bell introduced the new Drive-Thru Diet menu featuring seven “Fresco” menu items with less than 9 grams of fat.  When I first saw this commercial on January 1st, I nearly fell out of my seat laughing.  Taco Bell is trying to become the next Subway and have that woman in the campaign compete with Jared!  Please, do not choose Taco Bell for your three meals a day in the effort to lose weight!  An occasional “Fresco” selection would be just fine.

Burger King has released a list of menu items suitable for “gluten-sensitive” people.  Beware—gluten free DOES NOT mean low in calories, fat, or sugar.  A bunless Whopper is gluten free….still the same old sludge to clog up your arteries…

Applebee’s launched a new category of menu items under 550 calories and is in addition to their pre-existing Weight Watchers menu.  Even when making these choices, in order to stay within a reasonable calorie range for weight control, you will want to select a calorie-free beverage and abstain from ordering an appetizer or dessert.

KFC has launched a $3.95 chicken meal that is under 395 calories, consisting of two pieces of grilled chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and mushy, canned green beans.   Not much nutrition there and will likely not fill your belly.

The bottom line?  Don’t assume anything is “healthy” until you have checked the facts.  When a restaurant advertises something as “good for you”, don’t just take their word for it.  Take charge of your health by considering the choices for yourself.  Restaurants aren’t really trying to help you get healthy, they just want you to keep walking through their doors…

The Pitfalls of Travel: Part 3

In Dining Out, What I ate today on January 22, 2010 at 9:00 AM

SUNDAY:  Dum dum dum dum dum…Kevin & Jen’s wedding day!   I witnessed my very first Russian Orthodox wedding—gorgeous! I would love to blog about how awesome this couple is and why I am so happy that they found each other…but that is not why you are here.  So back to my feeding frenzy!!!

As expected, the breakfast buffet was up and running again.  I checked it over since some places prepare more special recipes on Sunday mornings.  They must of missed the memo that Kevin was getting married…  I ended up ordering  the  “Jogger’s Breakfast”.

The wedding ceremony didn’t start until 3 pm so we decided to grab lunch at Panera Bread so we could fiddle with our laptops a bit.  I often get a Greek salad with chicken there, and intended to do so this time as well—it was wise to “eat smart” after the torte from last night, and I had no idea how many goodies were  in store for me at the reception.  I chose the whole grain bread to go with it, but it didn’t interest me much, so I only ate a few bites of it— just because the bread came with my meal, DOES NOT mean I have to eat it…  I ate the entire salad though.   

Panera Bread has many healthy, nutritious options available, but beware of the portions—calories abound if you get a whole sandwich, a bowl of cream-based soup in a bread bowl, etc.  I encourage you to look up the nutrition info online to see what I am talking about—most nationwide restaurant chains will provide it on their websites.  The best options are the “you pick two” in which you get a 1/2 sandwich and cup of soup or a 1/2 salad and soup or sandwich.  The combinations are endless, which prevents palate fatigue if you eat there frequently.  The broth-based veggie soups are going to be lower calorie and chock full of vitamins.  The best sandwich options are made with grilled chicken, turkey, or ham (sans cheese) on whole grain bread.  Be mindful of cheeses and heavy dressings on the salads.  Skipping the bagels and pastries is highly recommended!

The wedding reception was buffet style.  The appetizers were out first—a variety of cheeses, breads, and crackers; raw vegetables & dip; tossed salad; shrimp cocktail; cauliflower soup.   The best way to handle this scenario is to select a small plate, check out all your choices, and then put ONLY your preferred items on the plate—do not go back for refills.  Remember, this is just the first course…  I chose my favorite cheese (baked brie) and just enough crackers to accompany it, raw asparagus, carrots, and yellow peppers, a couple of shrimp, and a small cup of cauliflower soup. 

The main course consisted of an Indian buffet—some of the items I could not even identify!!!   Only fill your plate with items you are going to enjoy or things you are interested in trying.  I selected some protein (tandoori chicken & shrimp), rice with a little yogurt sauce, roasted vegetables, a small scoop of the cheesy, spicy spinach (wanted to taste it), and one piece of Naan bread.  I also had a glass (or two) of white wine with my dinner.

Now what is a wedding reception without the cake, right?  Since we were having so much fun gabbing and laughing at our table, it took us quite some time to make it back to the cake table once it was served.  The cake was part vanilla, part German chocolate.  By the time we went to get some, there was plenty of the vanilla, but only one piece of the chocolate left…Voldemort went gunning for it!   He knows I don’t waste my time on yellow cake— he snagged the final piece and we shared it 😉

This wraps up my weekend eating adventure.  Hopefully you have learned a thing or two about making healthier choices at airports, buffets, and restaurants.  As you can see, I do not deprive myself of my favorite foods.  The key is not wasting calories on foods I don’t care about, and setting limits on the ones I am likely to overeat.  Just because something is put in front of me, it doesn’t mean I have to eat it.  Just because a restaurant serves large portions, it doesn’t mean I have to be a member of The Clean Plate Club.   Think before you eat: decide on what is going to nourish your body while giving you the most satisfaction.  Eat slowly so your stomach has time to communicate with your brain that you are full.   Enjoy the social aspects of food—when you are out with others,  focus on the conversation, rather than eating everything on the table in front of you!

The Pitfalls of Travel: Part 2

In Dining Out, What I ate today on January 21, 2010 at 9:02 AM

My journey continues…I am still at the airport with a belly full of sub.  I’m feeling tired, so I decide to go to Caribou and get a small coffee (with 1/2 & 1/2) to take on the plane with me.  As I am purchasing the coffees, my “travel companion” (who has asked not be named…so I will call him “Voldemort”…) is drawn to the See’s Candy kiosk.  He buys TWO dark chocolate with almond bars—keeping the second one secret from me… Voldemort insists we need something sweet to go with our coffee, right?  No need to argue with that!!!  So, as we are waiting at the gate, 1/2 a candy bar and the coffee go down the hatch.

On the plane, we are offered our choice of beverage and “freebie” snack—cookies, pretzels, or peanuts.  I always request water–no point in getting junk calories from sugary juice & soda.  I’ve tried the cookies before–they have a “cheap” taste to them—my guess is a bunch of artificial ingredients.  Certainly nothing worth the calories.  As for the pretzels, I have always found them to be a bit stale, plus the salt just makes me more thirsty (it is easy to dehydrate on planes to begin with–don’t need any extra help with that).  So, I go for my beloved peanuts—I will even have the gall to ask for 2 packs!  Each pack has 70 calories and my rationale is that a 140 calorie snack is reasonable to tide me over to my next meal.  Since we were in the back of the plane, it had been quite some time since I finished my lunch.  Provided you don’t have a nut allergy, peanuts are a great snack choice as they are loaded with heart-healthy fats, protein, and vitamins.  The cookies and pretzels just provide “empty calories”—leaving you wanting more and more.  I already enjoyed some empty calories sharing the dark chocolate bar with Voldemort.  Eating a reasonable amount of good quality chocolate is a much better way to indulge, in my opinion.

Once settled in our hotel, we met the groom for dinner at a local Irish Pub.  Since we were celebrating his last few nights of bachelorhood, we started with “adult beverages”—beer is the most obvious choice at a pub.  However, the fish dinner special (Sole) caught my eye and beer didn’t seem like a good match.  They had quite an extensive martini menu, so I ended up ordering a Cosmo (no surprise there!)…a standard sized Cosmo has about 180 calories, so it was a good thing that I ordered the fresh fish dinner as opposed to the pub burger or deep-fried fish and chips.  I ordered a salad for an appetizer.  The fish came with rice pilaf and primavera vegetables, but I didn’t finish all the rice.  By the way, I ended up ordering another Cosmo… (they go down just a bit too easily!!)

After dinner, we ended up back at the hotel bar where a group of others joined us for shots—oh my…first the Irish whiskey (yikes!)…then the Sambuca (the bartender couldn’t get his hands on any coffee beans)…then the pint of Guinness…then the shot of Bailey’s IC on the rocks…then…o.k. you get the picture.  I overindulged WAY too much that night—but it was a bachelor party right?  Now I was regretting not bringing my workout clothes—it would have been nice to sweat out all the alcohol and a chunk of those calories in the morning… Oh well.  I just made sure to drink water in between to help stave off a hangover.

SATURDAY:  The hotel breakfast buffet…

The Hilton entices its guests with a 30% off breakfast buffet coupon on weekends.  I ALWAYS check out the buffet offerings before I commit—I have been disappointed too many times in the past.  This buffet was no exception—scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, english muffins, croissants, bagels.  Ho hum.  Nothing interesting about it.  The “all you can eat” buffets typically lead to overeating, so it is best to avoid them whenever possible.    I perused the basic a la carte menu instead.  After the previous night’s indulgences, I desired to eat a healthy, balanced meal, so I ordered the  “jogger’s breakfast” consisting of two eggs, sauteed spinach, a large serving of mixed fruit, and a couple slices of wheat toast.  YUM!  The perfect amount of food with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein.  A great way to start a day!   What’s the point in saving 30% off a buffet that I wasn’t going to enjoy anyway???

Since we had no where to be until the rehearsal dinner that evening, we drove downtown to Fanuiel Hall.  Anyone try driving around downtown Boston?  Geez!  I think we went around in circles 10 times before we got the the right place…  Anyways, while we were watching a stunt man unravel himself from ropes and a straight-jacket while hanging upside down 20 feet off the ground, Voldemort spotted a Bertucci’s Pizza sign beckoning in the distance.  It was time for lunch!

Bertucci’s pizza does not exist in the state of Michigan.  I fell in love with this place back in the 90’s when I lived in Baltimore, MD.   I was so excited to finally eat their roasted eggplant and artichoke pizza for the first time in at least 10 years!!!  (you can tell I love food, can’t ya??)  We had two size options for the pizza: individual or large.  We assumed the large would be too big for only two people to share—either we would have a bunch leftover (which doesn’t work when staying in a hotel) or we would end up stuffing ourselves silly.  The waiter informed us that the individual size was really more like a “medium” and had 4 large slices.  Perfect.  It came with an unlimited tossed salad so we knew we were going to have more than enough food.  It was as tasty as anticipated.  I left my beloved Bertucci’s feeling happy and satisfied 😉

Since I overindulged in “adult beverages” the previous night, I opted to drink only water during the cocktail hour preceding the rehearsal dinner. ( This time it was more about my stomach’s rebellion, rather than trying to save calories!)  We had the choice of haddock or ribeye for our entree.  Since I had fish last night, I opted for the ribeye.  It came with a bowl of New England style “chowda” to start, roasted potatoes, and green beans.  The steak was huge–my guess would be about 8-10 oz.  Way to much for only one person.  I ate about half of it. 

Then came dessert….the most amazing Boston cream chocolate torte I have ever tasted!  Yep, I ate the whole thing.  I’d like to blame my lack of resistance on my friend Patty’s bad influence, as she was sitting right next to me, but I would be lying.  We savored every last bite of it!  Yeah, she and I could have shared one slice of the torte to keep us both from getting a sugar buzz… No, I couldn’t have shared my slice with Voldemort–not only did he eat his own piece of torte, but he moved on to his neighbor’s when it went uneaten!!! 

So, that was Saturday.  It was easier for me to enjoy that yummy dessert because I had made reasonable choices at both breakfast and lunch.  If I had stuffed myself on several trips to the breakfast buffet and trying to polish off a large pizza at lunch, I would have felt pretty ill eating the whole dessert.  Sunday would be another day, and another opportunity to make balanced choices.

Hmmm…this travel blog is getting to be a bit longer than anticipated.  However, I do still need to discuss the wedding reception buffet, so that will covered in “The Pitfalls of Travel: Part 3″… I bet you can hardly wait 😉

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