Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guest blogger: How to eat healthy in a restaurant

Today's guest blogger is Nick, a recent college graduate and fellow blogger ( This is really good advice for all of us, but especially helpful for teenagers who are venturing out to restaurants with their friends, and may need a little guidance on how to order without mom and dad around. Many thanks to Nick!


If you’re trying to stay healthy, the best advice I can give you is to avoid going out to eat entirely. The latest “Barbecue Ranch Quesadilla Explosion!!” concoction at your local mid-range family joint may sound and taste delicious, but one too many of those monsters and you’re going to end up with a lot of inches where you don’t want them (and a lot less dollars where you DO want them!) But let’s be real: it’s Friday night; everyone’s going out and obviously you don’t want to be left behind. So how do you eat out without busting a gut?

Restaurant menus are, obviously, designed to make you hungry. They wouldn't exist if they couldn't make you want food. Of course, they couldn’t sell food if they advertised things as being “full of fat!” or “loaded with sugar!” or “three days worth of sodium!” So what do they do? They change the language around –

o       Creamy – On a restaurant menu, the word “creamy” means “mayonnaise or sour cream based.” Now I don’t know if the rest of you have as much of a problem with mayonnaise as I do (it’s a personal thing) but that makes it sound pretty gross to me.
o       *Fun fact* - Want to know what ranch dressing is made of? Mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream and seasoning. In other words: fat, fat, fat and salt. Enjoy!
o       Crunchy (or crispy) – These words usually mean the same thing: fried. This is particularly true with chicken. Often seen paired with the words “on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.”
o       Pan-fried – Sounds healthier than deep-fried, but in general it’s usually just as bad. Consider what they’re pan-frying your food in – usually butter.
o       (Anything) crusted – parmesan-crusted whatever is a common item on many restaurant menus. How do you crust something? Batter it and fry it.
o       “Slathered” or “smothered in” – the phrase “slathered or smothered in our special sauce” roughly translates into “we take this baby and soak it in as many empty calories as possible.” I should actually make “our own sauce” its own separate entry on this list – most “our own sauces” are basically doctored mayonnaise.
So now that I’ve described just about every item on every menu ever, what are you actually supposed to eat? There are actually a surprising number of menu items that taste great and won’t leave you feeling 10 lbs heavier when you walk out of the door:
o       Grilled anything – while you’ll lose some of the crispiness of fried foods, grilled foods usually seasoned specially so that all of the flavor remains.
o       Chicken or fish – lean meats like chicken and fish are almost always going to be healthier than beef (unless you opt for the crispy chicken with creamy dressing). Beef is naturally higher in saturated fats and cholesterol, and the protein trade off isn’t really enough to make it worth it.
o       Steamed vegetables – I know, I know, who wants to eat vegetables at a restaurant? They’re not the most fun thing in the world, but steaming vegetables is actually the healthiest way to cook them, and with a little salt they’ll taste every bit as good as the French fries your buddies are dunking in their “Southwest Chipotle Ranch Tsunami” sauce. 

Now granted, if you’re generally healthy and only go out once a week, you can eat pretty much whatever you want and it won’t do much of anything. But if you want to make a commitment to staying healthy while still having fun with your friends, following the above advice will help you reach your goals without sacrificing your social life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Breakfast is EASY!

On the weekends, I make the whole family nice, hot breakfasts. During the week, I just don't have time to do that, nor do I have the desire to wake up earlier to make it happen. I find breakfast to be the easiest time to feed my kids easy, healthy foods, and I feel great knowing I'm sending them to school with a belly full of good nutrition.

I follow the same basic format for breakfast every morning - whole grain (bar, bread, cereal, etc.), fruit, and calcium/protein (yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.).

This morning, the kids had a Kashi Strawberry TLC bar, mango slices, and vanilla yogurt with a tiny drizzle of chocolate syrup (the kids think they are really getting a treat, when in reality it might be 1/4 teaspoon worth of chocolate). Three minutes = awesome breakfast!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Who got lucky??

Congratulations to the winners of our 50% off coupon codes for the EasyLunchbox System - Andy (#1) and Michelle (#10). I will email both of you with your codes, and I hope you enjoy your new goodies!

Monday, February 14, 2011

An extra special Valentine treat...just for you!

Readers of this blog should know by now that I am a BIG fan of the EasyLunchbox system - I've included pics of this fantastic product in many of my lunch entries. It has definitely made packing lunches for my family (kids AND husband) easier by helping keep food items separated, cutting down on baggies and tiny plastic containers, and controlling portions.

The product keeps getting cooler...check out the first episode of a new series from EasyLunchboxes, featuring Barry Williams (aka, Greg Brady!).

If you haven't gotten your own EasyLunchbox system already, now may be the chance you were looking for. TWO of my lucky readers will receive a special 50% off code for the product (which means you'll get the whole system - 4 containers and a cooler bag - for just $10.95!). All you have to do to enter for your chance is leave a comment by Friday, February 18, 11:59 pm with a way for me to contact you if you win. 

(Please only enter if you are genuinely interested in purchasing this product. Thanks!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Little Miss Independent

My 4 year old making her own PB&J. They can do it on their own, so let them! Trust me!

Friday, February 4, 2011

On the run...

Last night was one of those last minute busy nights where I didn't have a plan and didn't have my head on straight. I had to get Harper to piano lessons by 6:00, and she was starving. I decided to make a run by McDonald's and get her the best things I could find on the menu...a wild berry smoothie and the fruit & maple oatmeal.

To go please...

Here are the ingredients:

Wild Berry Smoothie:
Wild Berry Fruit Blend
Strawberry puree, water, sugar, blackberry puree, blueberry puree, concentrated pineapple juice, concentrated apple juice, contains less than 1% of the following: cellulose powder, xanthan gum, colored with fruit and vegetable juice, natural (botanical source) and artificial flavors, pectin, citric acid. 
Low Fat Yogurt
Cultured Grade A reduced fat milk, sugar, whey protein concentrate, fructose, corn starch, gelatin. Contains active yogurt cultures.
Fruit & Maple Oatmeal:
Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.
Diced Apples
Apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain freshness and color).
Cranberry Raisin Blend
Dried sweetened cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California raisins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide (preservative).
Light Cream
Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.

Sure, there could be some improvements made to these items to make them even healthier (less/no added sugar and a couple less added unnecessary ingredients would be great), but overall, these are pretty good options when you're on the go and in a bind. 

Harper approved!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Let's chat about school fundraisers

I'm earning a reputation around my town as the fundraiser-hating mom. Not completely true - I understand the need for fundraising and am completely willing to help with it...I just don't want to sell junk food and I don't like my kids having sales presentations made to them with hopes and dreams of awesome prizes (that's a subject for a different blogger though!).

Grayson's school's biggest fundraiser of the year is cookie dough (big, huge tubs of it) sales. For the past two years I have fought against it by writing letters to the principal, superintendent, other parents, etc. Bottom line - it makes the most money. Period.

I have no interest in me or my children peddling unhealthy, expensive food to people that don't need or want it. I need your help!

I've looked into many other healthier and more practical fundraising options, but I need to know from real people who have done it - what school fundraisers work that you can also be proud to participate in? What kind of numbers did you see from them? I would really appreciate feedback on this. Thanks in advance!