ask the nutritionist: eating out without gaining weight

Last week, when I posted about all of the Korean BBQ I’ve been eating, I received a question from a reader wondering how to eat out when you are trying to lose weight. I should mention that I’m not actively trying to lose weight, just maintain it, so if you are actively trying to lose weight, limiting meals out may be a good idea.

This is not an easy question to answer because there are so many ways, opinions and answers/suggestions on how to eat out and not gain weight.

Eating out for me is pretty much an obsession/favorite hobby of mine. I love exploring new cuisines and ethnic foods that I’m not familiar with in addition to any old delicious restaurant. I’ll try everything and every place once and so far, I’ve liked pretty much everything. :) I prefer to eat out on a regular basis, so I definitely rely on a few “tricks!”

Here are some of the ways that I enjoy restaurant meals without gaining weight: 

  • Decide what calories are worth it and which ones aren’t.
  • Appetizer or dessert.
  • Share! The Taster and I always share meals, and often just share small plates so we can try more items.
  • Take home some leftovers. When we had breakfast at The Griddle Cafe, the portions were so huge that we had enough leftovers to provide another whole meal.
  • Appreciate and savor delicious meals – having someone cook for you should be luxurious and special, treat it as such!
  • Don’t eat until you are stuffed. Sure, this will happen from time to time, but I make an effort to not leave a restaurant stuffed.
  • If you eat a large meal, don’t feel obligated to eat your normal breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks afterwards – listen to your body! Some meals we’ll eat a little more, and some we’ll eat a little less.
  • Eat the types of meals that you would typically eat at home. I often look for seafood or other protein and will usually request all non-starchy vegetable sides. Potatoes are not worth it to me, so I’ll typically skip them and ask for something else. (If I’m eating a burger, that is a different story).
  • Workout! Restaurant fare is typically a little higher in calories than a meal at home so it is just another reason to workout regularly. :)

Everyone has their own tips and tricks – please share yours! (Even if your tip is not eating out!) :)

chicken field salad {trader joe’s inspired}

I’m pretty sure I’ve tried 98% of the items at Trader Joe’s. I mean, it is just too convenient. It is across from the yoga/spinning studio that I belong to. There are three of them within walking distance of our apartment. And they are absolutely everywhere here in Los Angeles.

So I’ve been doing most of my shopping there and trying everything along the way. I’m working on a Best Of Trader Joe’s post, but I’m struggling with how to organize it – there are so many great things! Anyway, one of our favorite salads is the Chopped Field Salad with Chicken – it has flavorful currants, chewy couscous and the sweet basil dressing – oh, that dressing! I set out to recreate the favorite and while I made a few changes, the flavors are very similar. This chicken field salad has all of the “requirements” for an entree salad, so it’s the perfect salad for lunch or dinner –  full of protein, fiber and flavor!

 

Chopped Field Salad

by Emily Dingmann

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients (2 large entree salads)

For the Salad

  • 1 cup cooked israeli couscous
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup corn, toasted in hot pan
  • 8 oz cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp pecans
  • 2 oz cheese (I used feta but parmesan is used in the TJ version)
  • 8 cups mixed greens

For the Dressing

  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 small shallot
  • 1 Tbsp honey or agave
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

For the Salad

Toss together couscous, pepper, corn, chicken, cheese, currants, green onions and pecans.

Top greens with couscous mixture.

Drizzle with sweet basil dressing.

For the Dressing

Combine all ingredients in blender or small food processor.

Blend until smooth.

Taste and adjust flavors if desired.

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simple & healthy: stir-fry

Stir-frys are always a great choice for simple and healthy meals that come together in minutes.

In fact, usually the rice takes longer to make than the stir-fry itself. If you are short on time, consider trying frozen brown rice or instant brown rice. (You can also make your own brown rice in large batches and then freeze for later use).

Then gather up all of the vegetables you have, along with some protein and have a flavorful dinner on the table in minutes!

(Beef & Basil Stir-Fry from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything)

Stir-Fry Tips and Steps: 

  1. Prepare rice, grain or pasta if using
  2. Prepare all ingredients (slice, chop, etc) so they are all ready to go
  3. Heat pan and oil in pan (you can flavor oil with garlic and ginger)
  4. Add ingredients by length of cooking time, adding ingredients that take longest first*
  5. Add sauce (can be as simple as a splash of soy, fish sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, etc.)
  6. Serve immediately

*If your stir-fry includes meat or seafood, consider cooking the meat, removing from pan and then cooking the vegetables so you don’t over cook your meat

Stir-Fry Recipes to Try:

Shrimp & Snow Pea Stir-Fry 

Sauteed Baby Squash with Basil & Feta

Chicken & Leek Stir-Fry

Spicy Asparagus-Tempeh Stir-Fry

Brown Rise Stir-Fry with Kimchi, Pork & Tofu

Grace Young’s Best Stir-Fry Tips

 

100-calorie salad boosters

I’m always on the lookout for new salad inspiration – you know I love my salads!

Last week, I received an email about the Cooking Light Big Book of Salads with a few salad ideas. They suggest starting with 1 1/2 cups of fresh greens, adding a tablespoon of vinaigrette and then give suggestions for boosters that are about 100 calories. I loved these ideas (and pictures) and wanted to share them with all of you. As listed, the salads are portioned for a side salad but I also included ways that you can turn these into a meal.

Asian Salad: 

To turn this salad into a meal, add 2-3 cups additional greens, 1/2 cup red pepper slices, 1/2 cup thinly sliced red cabbage and 4-6 oz of cubed and baked tofu.

Pear Salad: 

To turn this salad into a meal, add 2-3 cups additional arugula, 1/2 cup sliced cucumber and 4-6 oz baked salmon.

Southwest Salad: 

To turn this salad into a meal, add 2-3 additional cups of romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, 1 Tbsp diced red onion and 4-6 oz grilled chicken.

What are your favorite salad toppings?