How To: Eat Clean(er) In Restaurants

Clean eating at home isn’t exactly easy, especially when you’re juggling a family and a busy schedule. But at least you have the advantage of controlling your ingredients and your environment. So if we ate at home for every meal, the path to healthy eating habits would be relatively smooth. But of course we live in the real world, and that means eating at other people’s homes and at restaurants sometimes too. The easy way out is to say “Oh, it’s a special occasion, and I’ll have whatever I want *just this once*.” But when *just this once* becomes every couple of days, it’s easy to get off track in a hurry.

So here are some of my survival strategies to be able to eat out and enjoy my time with family, friends, and colleagues without throwing away all my hard work and exercise:

Don’t Arrive Too Hungry

Just like grocery shopping, if you are starving when you walk into a restaurant, the unhealthy choices are more likely to jump out at you and you’re more likely to overeat in general. It’s also much easier to say “No thanks” to a bread basket if you aren’t entertaining a herd of rampaging wildebeests in your tummy (what? Just me and PJ?) Eat a high protein snack before you go and it’ll be easier to stay on track.

Say No To Soda
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Regular soda is full of empty calories, and diet versions actually stimulate your appetite and craving for sugar. Stick to water and unsweetened teas for your main drink, and save your beverage calories for a glass of wine instead.

Skip The Salad

This may seem counterintuitive to a healthy eating strategy, but think about this – which of these three dishes is going to give you a bigger bang for your vegetable buck?

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The typical house salad at many restaurants may make you feel good when you order it, but is usually just a pile of lettuce with a couple of tomatoes and/or cucumbers and it’s not at all satisfying to eat. And a lot of entree salads are loaded with fatty fried chicken, and covered with high fat dressings and other unhealthy items. You’re better off ordering the pizza with lots of veggies (that are ironically not often included in the salads!) or another entree with some nutritional value than suffering through a boring plate of lettuce or thinking you were “good” because you ordered a salad and then binging on dessert….or so I’ve heard!

Read Like A Chef

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When you’re looking for a healthy entree, pay attention to the ingredients and also to how it’s prepared. Look for broiled, grilled and baked items, and stay away from smothered ones. Sauteed is a tricky one, because it CAN be done with a light touch, but most of the time it isn’t. You’ll probably be looking at a lot of unnecessary fat and oil with a sauteed dish. If you don’t understand a term and how it relates to fats used in cooking, ask your server or look it up.

Have What She’s Having

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Ok, I love this movie. And you don’t need to be quite as high maintenance as Sally, but she really is onto something with all her “on the side” orders. I always ask for dressings and sauces on the side, because they add flavor but also add a ton of fat and calories most of the time. So I dip my fork into the dressing or sauce before each bite to get the flavor, and rarely use more than a quarter of what they send out.

Divide & Conquer

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It’s no secret that restaurant portions are typically way outside the norm in their size and amount of calories involved. One good strategy to manage this is to take a good look at your plate before you take that first bite or Instagram photo, and decide where your stopping point is. I usually eat half of my plate and then stop for a couple of minutes to decide if I’m still hungry or if I’m talking the rest home for lunch. It’s easy to get caught up in conversation and finish a whole huge plate before you know it, so deciding where you stop before you start can be a big help.

These are my six favorite strategies for keeping on track away from home – what are yours? Leave them in the comments!

12 Things I Do Buy Now (That I Never Thought I Would)

Last week I shared a few things that I have started pushing my cart straight past in the grocery store. But of course clean eating is about more than eliminating processed foods, it’s also about eating more of the good stuff.

I’ve found this to be a gradual process, which started for me when I first began making PJ’s baby food. As I looked for new foods for him to try, I made that fruit or vegetable part of my regular meals for the week as well. I have since started buying baby food for him because I could never master the consistency of meats especially, but he usually prefers to eat off of my plate now, and that is my biggest motivation to keep honest about my clean eating – it’s kind of like being pregnant or breastfeeding again without all of the pain and suffering. Win win!

Here are 12 of my favorite “discoveries” that will be on the menu for this week:

From the Produce Aisle

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Collard greens – A lot of people told me that Napa cabbage makes a good substitute taco shell. Sorry to say, I did not find this to be the case lol. But I found this recipe for a chickpea avocado taco in a collard wrap, and am going to give the leafy shell thing another try!

Turnips – These are surprisingly good substitutes for white potatoes in soups. They have a similar texture and absorb the flavor of the broth, and I really like using them this way.

Brussels Sprouts – This is my new veggie to try this week. I’m going to see how they turn out roasted, which is one of my favorite ways to prepare almost any vegetable.

Avocados – I used to buy one or two for a specific recipe, and now I find myself wailing “Oh noooooo, I ran out of avocados!” on a fairly regular basis. Salads, wraps, sauces, dips, everything is better with an avocado or two. And PJ’s favorite – blend one with a banana for a creamy, yummy treat! (Don’t tell him, but I’ll be making him Popsicles out of this mix later today!)

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Bok Choy – I mentioned last week what a delicious soup this makes, but it’s also a great sir fry ingredient for a super fast and healthy dinner.

Squashes – I’ve always loved zucchini, but am discovering a whole world of delicious squashes now. Spaghetti squash, and spiral cut zucchinis are helping me get through my love of pasta. This little Acorn squash is going to get roasted up with some olive oil and parmesan – yum-O!

Tomatoes – Wait, what? Yes, tomatoes. I’m sure you don’t need serving suggestions for these, but I have personally always hated them and am just starting to cook with them regularly. I figured if I’m brave enough to try Bok Choy and Brussels Sprouts, I can try eating more tomatoes too, right?

In The Pantry
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PB2 – Another new thing to try this week, I hear it is amazing especially when added to a protein shake!

Black Beans – These fall into a category of things I have bought before but never really knew how to use. But now I add them to soups more often, and have a couple of good, quick taco recipes to throw them in. Yay for protein!

Quinoa – I’m still not fond of this on its own, I prefer the texture of couscous honestly. But where I’ve really come to use it is in recipes that call for ground beef (like chili or meatballs), I substitute half the beef with quinoa to cut down the fat and still have a nice hearty meal.

Bulk Nuts – These are some of my favorites. I used to just buy the package of overly salted, greasy, roasted nuts. But the bulk aisle had much better options available at pretty reasonable prices.

Tahini – Check the organic or international foods aisle for this one. It’s the main ingredient in hummus, and other sauces. It kind of tastes like unsalted peanut butter in my opinion, and one small tub lasts a good long time in the pantry.

What About Drinks?
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Of course sodas are the first thing to go when you’re eating clean. And lucky for me, I love coffee, tea, and water. But that does get boring sometimes and processed powder drink additives are not in my clean eating plan! I also notice myself becoming more sensitive to dairy now that I eat and drink less of it, so I’ve started buying almond milk for my coffee and love it.

My Shakeology gets a mention on both lists because I really never thought I would become a daily shake kind of girl, but I am a convert for sure. I confess that I kept a container of my grocery store brand, which has now been completely untouched in my pantry for several weeks! I find that coconut water mixes better with the shakes than the plain, and doesn’t have a very strong coconut flavor. I made a shake this morning with the vanilla powder, coconut water, blueberries, and couple of basil leaves – it was totally amazing. And the best part is that if I hadn’t thought so, there’s a 30 day, bottom of the bag money back guarantee on the Shakeology.

So there you have it – 12 of my personal favorite new staples on our clean eating adventure. What new foods have you discovered lately? Please tell, I am always looking for new ones!

PJ’s Diary: Babies Against Clean Eating

Mommy says we are “eating clean” this week. I think this is a terrible idea. The best part about eating is getting real dirty!

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I don’t mind all the good, fresh veggies, I even made her give me a yummy scallion to munch on – it went real nice with my peanut butter and banana sandwich!

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And the eggs with tomatoes, fresh basil, and turkey bacon – deeeeeeelicious!

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But how am I supposed to enjoy my food if I have to keep it clean all the time?!

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I think I’m gonna go to Great Grandma’s house for the week. She understands me.

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So how about it Mommy? Pack me up some yummy veggies and fruit, and I will go where they appreciate a good mess and aren’t stingy with the ice cream!

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But …You’re coming with me, right?