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restaurant meals

Hot Topic Tuesday: How Do You Feel About Restaurant Special Orders?

Written on April 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm , by

Some chefs scoff if you ask for dressing on the side. (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Later this week, pizza giant Domino’s will begin airing commercials that, in the words of Amy Winehouse, will say “no, no, no” to customers who want to make special orders. While slice lovers can still top as they please on regular pies, they must order artisan pizzas as-is. According to Domino’s, their chefs have worked so hard to balance the flavors—and they want diners to experience them just that way.

Many higher-end restaurants have had a “no special order” policy for years, with management citing kitchen efficiency or chef preference as the cause. As a special orderer myself (hold the mayo, please), I appreciate having the option to slightly tweak the menu offerings to suit my tastes and dietary preferences. I figure if I’m making small requests while being polite and leaving a larger tip, it should all work out. But Domino’s and others seem to think otherwise.

How about you: Do you feel that those who request different preparations are being too picky? Or do you like the option to make your meal you own?

More from FITNESS:

How to Eat Out and Stay Slim (Dessert Is Included!)

Written on January 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm , by

Chef Gourdet stays in shape by running, biking, doing CrossFit and taking yoga classes. (Photo by Mike Pifke)

When you are invited to a dinner at a fancy restaurant, you can chalk it up as a treat and indulge for the evening. Or you can make some smart swaps and menu alterations to enjoy the time out without packing on pounds. That’s exactly what Portland Chef Gregory Gourdet does—and this strategy keeps him well-fueled and on track with his marathon training (he’s completed seven to date!).

Chef Gourdet, who turns out delicious modern Asian cuisine at Departure Restaurant in Portland, enjoys accommodating his diners’ various dietary requests. Here are the smart moves he and his guests make to slim down restaurant dishes:

  1. Ask for no dairy. “It’s really only there for the mouth feel and you can save yourself a lot of saturated fat by omitting butter, high-fat milk or cream,” Gourdet says.
  2. Opt for seafood. Lean meats and fish are better options than something like braised beef.
  3. Ban breading. “Avoid anything fried,” Gourdet says, suggesting the grilled or steamed vegetables over French fries or onion rings.
  4. Order dessert. Really! Gourdet recommends sorbet as a smart sweet option.

How about when you’re cooking at home? Gourdet swears by four key ingredients to add amazing taste to any meal. Keep reading to find out what they are, and to learn how to make his signature salad.

Read more

10 of the Healthiest Restaurant Menu Items of 2011

Written on December 15, 2011 at 9:02 am , by

By Tanya Jolliffe for SparkPeople.com

We’ve seen many restaurants update their menus this year to provide patrons with healthier options. The new Kids Live Well campaign provides families with healthier choices when eating away from home to help kids maintain a healthy weight. While some reports suggest the new healthy options aren’t popular, many restaurant chains aren’t giving up and are striving to be on board with the First Lady’s anti-obesity campaign.

Here are 10 of the healthiest menu options we’ve seen this year:

1. Starbucks Chicken & Hummus Bistro Box
Calories – 270
Fat – 8 grams
Sodium – 520 mg
Carbohydrate – 29 grams
Fiber – 6 grams
Protein – 16 grams

The wheat pita, fresh cucumber, carrot sticks, and grape tomatoes with hummus and grilled chicken do provide a nutrient-rich meal away from home. We really like that this option contains a sodium level that easily fits in many meal plans. One negative is that not all Starbucks locations offer lunch while others only offer a few of the new box options so this one might not always be available.

2. IHOP Simple & Fit Spinach, Mushroom & Tomato Omelette with Fresh Fruit
Calories – 330
Fat – 12 grams
Sodium – 690 mg
Carbohydrate – 31 grams
Fiber – 5 grams
Protein – 29 grams

This protein rich omelet, made with egg substitute, is filled with fresh spinach, mushrooms, onions and Swiss cheese with diced tomatoes on top to offer a nutrient-rich breakfast with a reasonable sodium content. The fresh fruit side creates a well-balanced breakfast that will stick with you all morning long. To minimize sodium, remember to request “no added salt” when ordering.

3. Applebee’s Asiago Peppercorn Steak with Herb Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables
Calories – 380
Fat – 14 grams
Sodium – 1,520 mg
Carbohydrate – 25 grams
Fiber – 5 grams
Protein – 44 grams

Though it’s a step in the right direction, this meal still has a day’s worth of salt! If you’re watching your sodium intake, choose another option. But at under 400 calories–with plenty of protein and iron–this meal is a big plus for this casual dining restaurant.

4. McDonald’s Hamburger Happy Meal with Apple Slices and Low-fat Milk
Calories – 390
Fat – 11 grams
Sodium – 650 mg
Carbohydrate – 51 grams
Fiber – 2 grams
Protein – 20 grams

Although any food can be incorporated into a healthy diet in moderation, offering a Happy Meal without fried foods and a serving of a fruit and milk is the healthiest meal possible. These new meals that focus on fruit and milk help families take small steps to new lifestyle choices.

5. Cheesecake Factory SkinnyLicious Grilled Chicken
Calories – 560
Fat – 2 grams saturated
Sodium – 1,252 mg
Carbohydrate – 20 grams
Large portion sizes at this restaurant are the norm, but with this dish they have maximized the nutrition. By pounding the meat so it is thinner, they create a plate-size meal without the plate-size calories. Add the fiber-focused topper that lends a bruschetta flavor and you get great taste for the right portion and calorie size where you wouldn’t expect to find it. This high sodium meal might not be right for everyone, but you can lower the impact slightly by asking for “no added salt” when ordering. 

More: Healthy Menu Items 6-10!

More from SparkPeople:

The 10 Worst Foods of 2011

The Worst Diet Scams of 2011

Get a Free Fitness and Weight-Loss Plan

Fit Links: Finding Exercise Love and Slimmer Dinner Dates

Written on October 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm , by

Exercise doesn't have to be a drag! (Photo courtesy of iStockphoto)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Fit Links: Home Workouts and a Weighty Controversy

Written on August 19, 2011 at 10:53 am , by

Have a blast getting in shape at home! (Photo by Jay Sullivan)

Have a blast getting in shape at home! (Photo by Jay Sullivan)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

On the (Eat) Right Track: Restaurants Offering Lighter Items

Written on August 3, 2011 at 5:27 pm , by

Restaurants are starting to offer healthier versions of favorite meals. (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Last week, McDonald’s announced that the Happy Meal would get a makeover in September. And just a few days ago, The Cheesecake Factory announced that it is stepping up to the plate.

This indulgent restaurant is famous for its high-calorie meals, especially the ginormous cheesecake slice you can order for dessert. Starting next week though, the chain restaurant will reveal a “SkinnyLicious” low-calorie menu for the health-conscious diner.

With nearly 50 new and signature items registering under 590 calories each, guests will have a wide selection of appetizers, entrees and cocktails to choose from to satisfy their palate without feeling like they’re depriving themselves.

So with all of these menu changes, are restaurants finally admitting that they could offer healthier dishes? We’re welcoming the changes with open arms because after all, who doesn’t like a healthier option every now and then? I know I don’t want to worry about my waistline every time I dine out with friends.

Now tell us: Would you eat from The Cheesecake Factory’s low-cal menu or the regular one? Do you care that restaurants are lightening up a bit?

Fit Links: Break Your Cell Habit and Run Pain-Free

Written on July 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm , by

A sure sign it's time to unplug? You feel like you want to set your tech toys aflame! (Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto)

One sign it's time to unplug? You daydream about setting your tech toys aflame. (Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Fit Links: The Most Searched Health Topics and 20-Minute Workouts

Written on July 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm , by

Note to self: Check with my doc for the most accurate health info. (Photo by Alexa Miller)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Xtreme Eating: Burn Off the Calories From the Country’s Most Indulgent Eats

Written on July 19, 2011 at 5:59 pm , by

You'll be skipping for a while if you want to burn off all of the calories. (Photo by Karen Pearson)

Today, the Center for the Science in the Public Interest released their annual “Xtreme Eating Awards.” Unlike the Oscars or Grammys, the recipients generally aren’t too pleased about being selected—these awards highlight the nation’s chain restaurant orders that are worst for heart health and obesity.

While the a restaurant treat on your birthday won’t ruin your get-fit goals, indulging in one of these dishes on a regular basis can do some diet damage. So since we are FITNESS, after all, we calculated how much exercise you’d need to rack up to burn off the calories from the items on the Xtreme Eating list:

  • 118 minutes of kickboxing= Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt (1,260 calories, 21 g saturated fat, 3,010 mg sodium)
  • 143 minutes of running at 6 MPH = The Cheesecake Factory Factory Farmhouse Cheeseburger (1,530 calories, 36 g saturated fat, 3,210 mg sodium)
  • 164 minutes of vigorous spinning = Cold Stone Creamery PB & C Shake (2,010 calories, 68 g saturated fat, 880 mg sodium)
  • 142 minutes of jumping rope = Applebee’s Provolone-Stuffed Meatballs with Fettuccine (1,520 calories, 43 g saturated fat, 3,700 mg sodium)
  • 205 minutes of lap swimming = The Cheesecake Factory Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake (1,540 calories, 59 g saturated fat)
  • 156 minutes on the stairclimber = Great Steak King Fries (1,500 calories, 33 g saturated fat, 4,980 mg sodium)
  • 146 minutes of singles tennis = IHOP Monster Bacon ‘N Beef Cheeseburger (1,250 calories, 42 g saturated fat, 1,590 mg sodium)
  • 185 minutes soccer = Morton’s Porterhouse Steak (1,390 calories, 36 g saturated fat, 1,200 mg sodium)

*Calories burned based on a 140-pound woman

If you want to find out how many calories your workouts burn, check out our handy (and free) interactive tool!

Note: We don’t believe that you need to or should burn off every calorie that you eat. These estimates are shared just for comparison purposes.

Now tell us: Would you be willing to exercise for two to three hours (or more) to balance out one of these “Xtreme” meals?