Eating Out


 timefliesTime lately has been flying and I’ve been super-busy, though I know, that is no excuse. I’ve been slacking on my writing duties and even slacking on my weight-management a bit too. I had a birthday, we took a vacation, then my husband turned 40, which resulted in a party and vacation, and now, I’m ready to write and get my waistline back on track. I have put on a few pounds (13 to be exact), nothing anybody likely notices. My clothes still fit, they aren’t tight to the eye, but I know what the scale is supposed to say. I’d been neglecting my own rules as related to partying, anticipating extra food consumption and planning for my day or an event. It is amazing how quickly the body reacts to these thoughtless moments, as additional pounds come and just as easily, as I’d started implementing these in my rotation again, the pounds go. Below is a list of things that I became lax on but have reinstated: 

  • When drinking alcoholic beverages, do not just sit and drink. Stand, circulate around the room and talk to people. This burns more calories and the drink lasts longer, thus I consume fewer calories.
  • If I know about an event in which I’m going to allow myself to indulge, I need to do extra workouts a week before and possibly (depending on how much I indulged) a week after the event. For me this is typically adding a 30-minute bike ride and/or 2-mile walk to my day. Since normal workouts are in the morning, I do the extra workouts after work, which actually helps me wind down for the day.
  • Dance off extra calories when at a club or party with music, as this burns calories, keeps me from eating and is just fun!
  • Plan the day. Recently, I went to the state fair, planned what I was going to eat and actually ate less food. I did some extra workouts earlier that week to make sure I had the calories for my favorite foods. Once I got to the fair, I didn’t really want all that I’d planned. The result was a 1-pound loss for the week.
  • Even plan for snacks. I’ve gotten back in the bad habit of being at home and noshing. Now, I make sure to plan for any snacks, “extra curricula” food, or even a nightcap on those days I know I’ll have a lot of down time.
  • Write everything down. I started keeping a few things in my head and well, in my head or not, they did end up on the scale, as it is quite unforgetting. When I first started my journey, I put down 5-calorie gum and 2-calorie espresso beans. Then, I started thinking those were minimal calories so I didn’t need to do that. I started making allowances/excuses for 20-calorie items here open and paperr 30-calorie there. Over time, this really does add up. So now, back to, “if I eat it, I write it.” 

I’ve already started seeing the results of my restored roadmap for weight-loss and management. Soon, I will be back to my 172-175 pound self and this will be yet another closed chapter in this long and continued journey.

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I do love summer. It’s warm, people always seem friendly and there’s so much to do. With that said, summertime for me sunshinehas its difficulties as related to health, wellness, and my eating regimen. The warmer weather makes me want to go out and do more; however, that’s not necessarily a good thing. I like to sit on patios at various restaurants and watch the passersby. I like to head down the street to grab a bite of ice cream and sit in the park. Sure, I walk to all these events, which add to a healthier me, but eating, drinking and possibly staying out late, those aren’t helping my wellness cause. I try to do a mixture of things to balance my summer fun. 

I love salads. As a cold natured person, I don’t typically eat salads in the winter, as I need food that will warm me up. However, in the summer, I crave salads all the time. This is a good thing as I can have a light dinner salad with a glass of wine (or two), sitting on a patio. This keeps the calories low and helps me soak up some vitamin D through the sun. Since we frequent many establishments in our neighborhood that are in walking distance, I do burn off a few more calories in the summer than usual, so that’s a plus as well. If I walk to get a salad and a couple of glasses of wine, I’ve likely walked off at least one glass of wine. 

sushi rollI also love sushi. For some, sushi in the summer is not desirable as there is the risk that it’ll go bad quite quickly, but again, I’m cold natured so the best time for me to eat it is in the summer. Sushi, at least the sushi I eat, is extremely low in calorie and very good for me. I don’t get sushi with excessive ingredients or with crunchy, fried, or saucy accompaniments. I like most of my sushi au naturel, with wasabi of course. If I get it with rice, I try to get brown rice. I try to mix it up a bit with some nigiri (but typically don’t eat the rice) and a few bites of a sushi roll. Luckily, I finally have my husband into eating sushi so we can get a couple of different small rolls and some nigiri to get the most bang for our buck and save our waistlines. 

 As I stated, I do try to walk more during the summer. Many places that we frequent are within walking distance (less than 2 miles), so regardless of the weather, if I know I’m going to eat and drink, it’s time to walk. If I do eat any excess calories, it’s possible I’ll burn them off. For example, my birthday is next Sunday. On Saturday, we’re doing a 5k event and then hanging out with friends that afternoon, likely bar hopping. I figure the 5k gets us started off with a good calorie burn (this is after I already do my 2-hr normal workout for the day). From there, I’ll be sure to watch what I eat. We’re going to a Mexican place, so I’ll get a couple of tacos with everything on the side so I can control the sour cream and cheese, along with no chips and salsa. When we bar hop, I’ll sip slowly (thus shooting for no more than one beverage per establishment) and make sure I only eat if I’m hungry, and even then, it’ll be low in calorie. In addition, we’re making sure to walk everywhere. This will certainly keep my metabolism in overdrive, as I’ll wake up, workout, do the 5k, and never stop going, thus burning numerous calories.

picnic ants, noWhether or not this plan works next week, we’ll see but as I’ve always said, having a plan is at least a good start. Moreover, knowing my weaknesses and setting boundaries is quite helpful too. Luckily, I do like low-calorie foods such as salad and sushi and I live in a walking neighborhood that helps offset my need to be active when the sun comes. This summer, I hope to continue having plans and ideas to ward off the pounds like Raid against ants at a picnic; I’m going to squash all these summer temptations like a bug.

With Memorial Day being the official kickoff to summer, I thought I’d repost this blog. It’s one of my favorites and is in my top 10 of blogs with the most views. Enjoy and have a great Memorial Day weekend all!!!

Summertime! The time of year many people eagerly wait for and loudly cheer for once it is here. Various people find they exercise more in the summer as the weather lends itself to walking and running. It is a great time of year to be out, active, and enjoy the surroundings. It is also that time of year for backyard BBQs, family reunions, and potlucks. Let’s face it, even the increase in exercise doesn’t equal the possible increase in food available in the summer. 

I already gave a few points on the BBQ in my Independence Day post, but here are a few more to help guide you: 

When attending a BBQ:

  • Ask the host for the menu prior to attending.
  • Plot a “food course” based on that menu.
  • Plan to eat and drink every hour or so while there. For example, let’s say you plan to be there for 4 hours and want to have 2 ribs, 2 chicken wings, some baked beans, a small salad, and a piece of dessert. Once you arrive, get a drink and mingle for about 45 minutes, then grab a salad. About an hour later, get another drink and have the 2 ribs and a spoonful of baked beans. An hour after that, have the wings and one more spoon of beans. About 30 minutes prior to leaving, have some dessert.
  • Use a dessert plate to keep portions in check, or even use a napkin or just a fork (unused fork of course) if appropriate. (Last BBQ I went to I already ate before arriving, but my sister-in-law makes the world’s best macaroni and cheese. I had to have a bite so I got a fork, dipped it in the mac and cheese, and had one heavenly bite. Had I gotten a plate, I’d have gone hog-wild. The one bite really was all I wanted and needed.)
  • Never take anything home. If you go over calories, at least it is limited to one day. Don’t even take veggies (unless raw) home with you as you never know how much olive oil, butter or other high calorie flavoring was used.

 When hosting a BBQ:          

  • Cook some good for you, healthier food (i.e., grilled fish and chicken with no sauce, green beans, etc.), along with food your guests will expect. This gives you something flavorful and lower calorie to eat and food to store for later.
  • If you have food left that you don’t usually keep in your house, give it to your guests. Only leave food in your house that you’d normally eat. However, if you’re guests have read my blog, they will not take the food with them, in which case donating the food to a church or shelter is recommended.
  • Keep in mind that you’re at home. If you want to snack or nibble, choose your usual snacks and not the chips, dips, or desserts you set out to make your guests happy.
  • Be sure to use the timing pattern and small plates as mentioned when attending a BBQ.

 If attending a potluck: 

      • Don’t go hungry. Be sure to eat just prior to the event so you’re not tempted to scarf down everything.
      • Wait at least an hour prior to eating, as to wait for the arrival of all the food. No sense in figuring out what you want to eat, eat it, and something new arrives. Wait so you can “size up” the entire smorgasbord.
      • Determine the “must-have” dishes. This should only be a few foods. Those items you have a taste for or may never get a chance to sample again. Be honest about what you truly crave and “can’t live without.” Once you know what you want, plan your attack just as you would a BBQ. Save a bit of room/calories for a “must-have” late arrival.
      • Again, don’t take anything home, including the dish you arrived with, and use small plates. 

 (Note: never host a potluck as you want to be able to control the type of food at your gathering and you don’t want to be left with the remaining items people don’t eat or take with them)

I hope this helps in maneuvering through what can be a challenging season and allow you to enjoy the long-awaited summer.

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to write about, as I had a couple of topics running around in my head. Therefore, I figured a short synopsis or a few quick tips might be useful to pass along. 

huge waistMore waste might equal less waist – I really don’t want to waste food or advocate it, but when served too much food, that’s what I have to do instead of eat it. If I eat it and know I’m no longer hunger or don’t have the calories for it, my waistline will not be happy. I’d rather waste the food than see the food on my waist. 

Volume speaks volumes on the scale – When I’m at happy hour, my preferred drink more often is wine. A glass of red wine has 125 calories for a 5-ounce pour. Sipping that glass throughout the evening goes a long way. I do love bourbon but with at least 140 calories per 2-ounce pour, if I’m going to be out for a long time and drinking, wine will keep the calories (and morning weigh in) down. I still drink my bourbon but usually more when I’d like a nightcap, am only going to have one drink, say for an hour-outing, or when I want that calming/soothing one-glass sip. I drink my slightly dirty martinis on rare occasions as they have way too many calories. Luckily, I don’t like beer and thus can avoid a beer gut.

Ask, and you shall receive – I customize my restaurant orders all the time and restaurants have no problem providing what I have asked. I can pick apart a menu like nobody’s business and look for ingredients that I might like. Then, I figure out how those ingredients can make a composed lower calorie, great tasting dish. With so many people having food allergies, chefs do not seem mind preparing food requested in the manner preferred. It’s almost as if the Burger King Slogan fits anywhere – Have it your way. 

Little changes can make a big difference – I used to drink a large white chocolate and caramel latte with skim milk every morning, for a whopping 530 calories. This is how my day started every weekday. Now, I drink a medium half-and-half shot of sugar-free white chocolate and sugar-free caramel latte with skim milk for only 130 calories. Honestly, the first couple of days it took getting used to but now, I love it. A new person made my coffee once (forgetting the sugar-free) and it was horrible… way too sweet. One sip and I knew it was wrong. My taste buds adjusted and that one change dropped 400 calories from my daily diet. I used to drink that coffee with a 400-calorie muffin and now I have a Vitatop, a Weight Watcher Muffin, a Granola Bar, etc. or something similar for less than 200 gbtasterscalories. Just a tweak here and there, still eating good food but saving myself tons of calories. The same is true about those shooter desserts in restaurants compared to their full-size counterparts. I still get the sweet flavor and indulgence without a bunch of regretful pounds.

I hope these few tips are helpful, as they sure have helped me continue to enjoy life while I eat wonderful tasting food, socialize with friends and maintain a healither weight.

hold hostageMy husband came up with the idea for this blog and the title because of a salad I ordered last Saturday. We went to Gordon Biersch, who has many salads on their menu. I love salad; I’m just too lazy to cut, clean, and put them together the way I want. When I go to restaurants that have a smorgasbord of salad toppings, I frequently order a salad for my meal. The problem for me is that they usually don’t have a composed salad just the way I want. Therefore, I have to “make” a customized salad, or as my husband put it, give my list of demands. This particular trip I ordered a well-chopped salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, pears, craisins, artichoke hearts, gorgonzola cheese, spiced pecans, and light balsamic Italian dressing on the side. 

I’ll admit, I do this quite a lot when I go out to eat as I figure it’s my waistline and my money so I should have it my way. Restaurant establishments can turn me down or not give in to my hostage demands, but they’ll also not get my money as I can go elsewhere. I’ve been ordering tailored food for years now and have not come across any problems (knock on wood). There are times when I order vegetables with no oil and the waitperson comes back to tell me their vegetables are pre-seasoned and oiled when they arrive to the location. It is not that they do not want to compile with my wishes, they just can’t. In this case, the staff might recommend I get the vegetables but they can request no additional oil be used (sad but true; many restaurants have oil already on the vegetables, then put more oil on to reheat, roast or whatever for preparation). Sometimes I’ll move forward as suggested, other times I’ll opt for a salad or something without oil. 

I don’t just do this with salads or vegetables. I’ve become very good at picking a menu apart. Many ingredients are served with one dish but I want them with another. For example, if salsa is served with the nachos, I know they have salsa. I might want my fish prepared without the buttery sauce described on the menu, so I’ll ask for grilled fish with little to no oil and salsa on the side. Or, if they use apple slices for a drink on the bar menu and I want lightly grilled apple slices with my pork chop instead of the gravy it comes with, I’ll ask for it. Most things can be done and modified, they just might cost a bit more or take more time to cook but it can be done. 

Another thing I pay careful attention to is the kids menu. There are usually smaller portions and simpler offerings for these little tikes. Sometimes the waitperson will alert me that they have to charge me a higher amount than what is listed on the child’s menu, to which I respond, “that’s fine, I just want to get the kid size meal and not waste or be tempted bythink outside the box the food.” I’m always courteous and open to suggestions so the servers are genuinely helpful and typically want to accommodate my requests. 

While you might not be dining at Burger King, keep in mind you can still have it your way. Take charge of the menu and caloric intake. Be polite in the request and be ready to offer solutions for any problems that arise. You might want grilled fish but they only have utensils to bake their fish or so they tell you. If they have a grill and some foil or even a heavy pan/skillet, it can be done; just some out-of-the-box thinking needed. Before exchanging your calories and money be sure you’re getting what you want and need for continued success in your weight-loss or maintenance journey.

happy easterWell, it’s almost Easter. On Sunday, I can fall off the wagon, as I gave up alcohol for Lent. I’ll admit, this wasn’t the hardest thing to do but it wasn’t easy. In the past, I’ve given up coffee, chocolate, and dessert, foods I consume every day. While I don’t drink every day and most times, not even every week, partaking in a sip of wine with dinner or a de-stressor bourbon after a hard day at work or a hot-toddy nightcap is something I’m able to do when I want. On those occasions, when I was unable to have my beverage of choice, I did manage to muddle through and as always, learned a few things about myself.

The challenges this Lenten season were an adult birthday party, St. Patrick’s Day and a happy hour for my husband’s new job. For the birthday party, I was fine in the beginning, as this wasn’t too long after we’d returned home from Mardi Gras. I did enough drinking on that trip to last a few weeks. However, as that evening progressed and everyone around me enjoyed a cocktail, I started wanting one. That’s when I spotted someone “drinking” that I knew didn’t drink. My husband asked her what she was drinking and she said, “A Shirley Temple,” made with Sprite, grenadine, and a squirt of lemon. I’d forgotten all about those things. Since I hardly ever drink soda pop, I figured this would be something drink with cherrydifferent and I could trick my body, at least for this event. Viola, success. I had two diet Shirley Temples with cherries and made it through the evening just fine, with calories to spare.

Then came St. Patrick’s Day, on a weekend no less. This is usually a day I go all out, with Pub Crawls, green beer, etc. (and keep in mind, I don’t even like beer). Wow, talk about struggling. I curled up on the couch the Saturday of that weekend and felt bewildered. Oh, I just wanted the pain to go away. My wonderful loving husband again came to the rescue. He Googled non-alcoholic drinks, went out to get some Vernor’s ginger ale and whipped up a virgin concoction of something that was wonderful. I have always enjoyed the soothing flavor of ginger. Ahhh, again I’d made it through tough times. There was an unconventional solution to keeping me on track and we found it. This reminded me of how I felt when I first started eating better and losing weight. There’s always a healthier alternative that will work. It’s just a matter of finding it.

The final test was last week at the happy hour to wish my husband luck at his new position. We celebrated with both old and new co-workers. The drinks were flowing and after a while, the sting from the dark roasted black coffee just didn’t work. Even the full strength Shirley Temple (as they didn’t have diet) didn’t work. I was miserable and before I knew it… the night was over. O-V-E-R!!! I’d made it. I knew if I could make it through a happy hour, 5 weeks after being stone-cold sober and just one week away from Easter’s arrival, I’d be fine and sure enough, now, I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m counting the hours until I drink my extra spicy bloody Mary at Easter brunch, but at least I bloody Maryknow I persevered. Oddly enough, the thing I noticed most is that I had no food cravings while on the wagon. I didn’t want to drown myself in pizza or cookies or eat half a cake. This is progress. On the down side, I wondered if the reason I didn’t crave these things is because I wasn’t consuming alcohol. Could it be that alcohol brings on these feelings? Maybe these foods wouldn’t taste as good to me without alcohol, thus I didn’t crave them. I suppose I’ll find out soon enough, but at least I’ve done the research and am now aware. I have found that knowing is half the battle and once I identify a problem, I can tackle it. I’ve already figured out my strategy for brunch and how to make it through Easter day without overdoing it. Additionally, I’ve planned the following days to carefully add my favorite beverages back to my diet, in slow rotation, so that I don’t swill everything in sight. As I frequently say to those that ask, moderation is key and I’ll be sure to intently exercise that over the next few weeks, as I raise my glass to toast you all – Happy Easter!

You do not require oil. Much of this is a repost from a previous blog of mine that I felt compelled to discuss. I keep watching cooking programs, or even reading recipes that are supposed to be for healthier cooking and they add extra Pam, buttercalories and fat by way of vegetable oil. In my experience, with many of the things I cook that call for vegetable oil, the taste isn’t dissipated due to my use Pam, no-stick butter flavor or Mazola no-stick instead. I think it’s important to ask yourself the question below for healthier cooking and better eating.

“Why am I using the olive oil?” If your answer was “I am using cooking oil to keep food from sticking to the pan,” then use your favorite no-stick brand instead. I like the Mazola no-stick but there are many others on the market. Some even add additional flavor such as butter, basil, etc. without the calories of cooking oil. If you are cooking with a no-stick pan, you really don’t need the cooking oil. You paid top dollar for that no-stick pan so let it do the job it was intended. If you are cooking foods that will release grease, fat juices, or water (i.e., pork, ground meat, cabbage, apples, etc.), cook them on low heat until the natural no stick agent of the food is released and then follow the recipe as stated. There is really no need to add 120 calories or more to your meal to keep food from sticking. 

If your answer to that question was because the dish needs flavor, then maybe olive oil is needed; but then again, maybe not. Could flavor be obtained with spices such as basil, tarragon, oregano, thyme, etc.? Spices have minimal calories spicesand many enhance the flavors in the food making dishes taste better, while cooking oil sometimes drowns the natural flavor.

Spices not your thing? Maybe a squirt of lemon, a dab of hot sauce, a splash of fruit juice, or some balsamic vinegar (all less than 10 calories a tablespoon) will add mouth-watering flavor. Would just a basting of light butter provide just as much flavor? Light butter is 50 calories a tablespoon. If just basting some chicken or pork chops with butter, you are likely not to use the entire tablespoon but even if you do, it is more than half the calories of olive oil.

So you have read this and your thoughts are that no-stick spray, spices, acidic juices and butter will not get the flavors you want and you must use cooking oil. OK, use it. But do you need to use as much as the recipe calls for? If it calls for a tablespoon, can you use 2 teaspoons instead (there are 3 teaspoons in one tablespoon so by using only two teaspoons you are still cutting calories)? Maybe you only need 1 teaspoon. Maybe a mixture of your favorite spices with a reduction of olive oil would taste great, even better than the recipe. 

Also a thing to keep in mind when eating out, order things without added oils or state you want the items dry. I’ve noticed that in restaurants the vegetables are sometimes too greasy because of how much oil was used in the vegetablespreparation. Many times they’ve already basted or seasoned the vegetables with a splash of oil before cooking or reheating for the order. Then they add more oil to whatever pan or heating element, and sometimes one more splash of oil at the end. I always ask for my roasted, grilled or sautéed vegetables to be cooked without additional oil. This gives me fewer calories, better tasting food as natural flavors and textures are maintained, and the vegetables aren’t shiny or sopping in grease.

The point here is to just play with different methods of cooking and flavors to see what works for each recipe. If you do not need the cooking oil, you save yourself the entire amount of calories. Maybe you only need a small amount, thus still reducing your calorie intake. Figure out what you need from what the recipe calls for to get flavor that you will enjoy, while saving yourself some calories and helping to lose or maintain that waistline.

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