When I started this blogging journey I wanted to have more than one subject to “talk” about. I adore my family and I love to cook but my life is bigger than just those things. We like getting out of the house and going out to eat is one of those “things” we do. I have recently lost 55 lbs by learning how to eat right. I knew in theory what was good vs bad foods, but had no clue how to do things like read a food label or a restaurant menu. The 21 Day Fix has taught me a myriad of things, especially portion control.
But after mastering “how much of what ” to eat and had several successful rounds of weight loss, I knew I was going to have to try to go out to eat at a restaurant eventually.
So I went to work on where to pick to go……. and one of the 1st things I learned was that I was going to have to do was my HOMEWORK ahead of time! If at all possible I try to find an online menu of a place I want to try and then to try to narrow down my choices before I ever get there. I look at the ingredients and try to find the freshest ones I can …and yes at some places that usually means that a salad is your ONLY option… but more and more places are starting to understand that “we” are ready to take charge of our health more as a society and they have tried to step up their menu game. Most restaurants post their calorie counts on the menu now. The trouble with making things look better calorie wise is that the sodium content can change and it can be astronomical sometimes! That information can be found on most menus in the Nutritional Information sections. Go there and make your decision based on calories/fat/sugar/sodium…..THOSE are what makes restaurant food taste better than ours does at home!! Do you know that a steakhouse will slather your “healthy” steak with pure butter while it is hot, so before you ever get it they turned it unhealthy and then if you dump steak sauce all over it you may as well be eating at the fast food place down the street!!
And right here we are going to stop and talk about those NUMBERS, yes the math part. Portions because by the time you have reached the point of going out to eat, you know how many Green containers it will look like. So you have to eyeball the amounts on your plate and try to a better portion size than you may have used to. But our especially our calorie and sodium numbers. Why not the fat and sugar numbers you might ask?? Well, because sometimes you can change that number by asking for the alternate method of cooking, like asking for grilled instead of fried or asking for your salad dressing on the side and then not using all of it. But sodium is in everything coming to that table most of the time…..even cheese has sodium in it naturally!
Let’s talk calories 1st because we live in a calorie “bracket” on the 21 Day Fix and that is the number that you know the best. You need to look at your bracket number and determine just how far out of that you want to travel in one meal….because you will see some HUGE numbers out there! While you are thinking about the calories in that one meal, be thinking about how you plan on eating the rest of the day…..if you are going out to supper then make sure breakfast and lunch are ON POINT!
Now on to the biggest problem of all…..the SODIUM!! The 21 Day Fix is a “lower” sodium based diet. The FDA says the “normal” sodium diet should have no more than 2400mg of sodium per day and a “low” sodium no more than 1400mg per day. I aim somewhere in the middle 1800 -2000. That normally translates to about 10 servings of food at 180-200mg per servings per day. NOW, look at the number of sodium mg on an average restaurant menu and be SHOCKED!! I have seen over 3,000mg of sodium in 1 meal….. that is a day and a halves worth in 1 meal ( That would make you swell up like Harry Potter’s aunt!!)
I can’t take you to every restaurant in America, obviously. I tried to pick one that most cities have at least one of.
So I am going to make a trip to Olive Garden, just for you! You can thank me later!! This is just an EXAMPLE of how I would go thru their menu…..the same “rules” would apply to any place!
Their menu changes often, at the time of this post these things were on it and they are just examples….
Instead of making a long list of the things you need to avoid, I thought a short list of things I would actually order would better serve you! I put them in the order of the least calories but I am going to give the sodium amounts too so that you can make a more informed choice.
The very first thing to ask is that the breadsticks be brought WITH your meal instead of letting them set them on the table, 140 calories and 460 mg of sodium per stick will slow you up on reaching for them! (This would apply to places like a Mexican restaurant too, anywhere they set something on the table for you to nosh on before your meal ever gets there)
I usually order water with lemon EVERYWHERE instead of drinking my calories but they have a Berry Spritzer that is only 30 calories that is a nice change of pace. A lot of times I choose to drink healthy when I am know I am not going to be eating the most healthy!
Now on to figuring out the food……….after that is what we came to do!
My #1 menu choice would be the Herb-Grilled Salmon served with garlic parmesan broccoli. The calories come in at 460 and the sodium at 570mg. Using my 21 Day Fix portion control containers I would count this menu item as 2R 1G 2tsp.
Up at spot #2 is their Spiralized Pasta. Spiraled zucchini and yellow squash give this dish a big veggie boost! 560 calories and 950mg of sodium, which is HIGH in the sodium department! Knowing this ahead of time would make it possible for me to plan on that and all day long I would be watching how much MORE salt I am consuming. “Zucchini and yellow squash spiralized into veggie pasta tossed with whole grain linguine, tomatoes and garlic in a scampi herb sauce” looks like 2G 1Y 2tsp on the 21 Day Fix. I am featuring a Copycat Spiralized Pasta recipe below!
I would choose for #3 the Chicken Margherita—-Grilled chicken breasts topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto and a lemon garlic sauce. Served with Parmesan-crusted zucchini comes in with 590 calories but a whopping 1,100 mg of sodium. It would count as the most containers on the 21 Day Fix at 2R 2G 1Y 1B 3tsp. I personally would ask for the garlic parmesan broccoli that comes with the salmon and avoid the 1Y!
Now on to that recipe I promised!
Spiralized Squash and Linguini
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 tsp)
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped (free)
2 cups cooked whole wheat linguini, keep the water you cooked it in (4Y)
2 cups spiralized zucchini and yellow summer squash (2G)
2 cups grape tomatoes (2G)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (free)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (1B)
kosher salt and cracked pepper
Gently warm butter and garlic in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook about 5 minutes till the garlic is soft being careful not to brown it.
Add the spiralized zucchini and tomatoes, toss them in the garlic butter. Turn the heat up to medium and cook about 2 minutes till the squash starts to soften.
Add the cooked linguini, basil, parmesan cheese a pinch of salt and pepper and tossing together.
Take just a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water and splash it in, you want it to be a “sauce” thicker, so you let it boil a minute….or if it didn’t make enough “sauce” add a tablespoon of pasta water at a time till it does.
I count this recipe as 1Y 1G 2tsp for a 1 1/2 cup serving.
Yes there is a Blue container of Parm in the whole recipe, trying to count it is hard because it is a tiny amount per serving…..you have 2 ways of dealing with it…..you can count 1/4th of a Blue or do like I do and add more parmesan cheese to the top (the other 3/4 of that Blue) and count 1B per serving
I often add a protein to this dish by way of some shrimp or chicken and just count your Red container.