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

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.

"At Departures, our meals are inspired by traditional recipes, but we use modern techniques," Gourdet says. Four ingredients are a must in any kitchen he works in—and he thinks you should stock up too!

  1. Ginger. Include it in meat, seafood or vegetable dishes for a brighter flavor. "Ginger is high in antioxidants and adds pop," Gourdet says.
  2. Chilis. Besides being high in antioxidants, chilis boost metabolism and awaken the palate.
  3. Olive oil. "It's my favorite fat and it's extremely flavorful," Gourdet explains, and you can use less since it has a strong taste.
  4. Sea salt. Highlight the quality of the other ingredients in a recipe by finishing with sea salt.

Try out all of Gourdet's must-have ingredients in this super side.

This salad is full of heart-healthy fats. (Photo by Erin Berzel)

Spicy Carrot, Cucumber and Avocado Salad Serves 6 For the cucumber salad:

  • 10 Japanese or pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 5 Thai chilis, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium knob ginger, about 2 ounces, finely julienned
  • 3 cups rice wine vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well to dissolve sugar.
  2. Transfer to a smaller container and let sit overnight or at least 2 hours so everything marinates.

To complete the dish:

  • 2 pounds baby carrots, trimmed, peeled, halved and blanched
  • 3 cups sourdough croutons
  • 3 ripe avocados, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, washed
  • Sea salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Toasted black sesame seeds
  1. In a large bowl, combine carrots with cucumber salad and some of the cucumber salad juice.
  2. Add avocado, croutons, cilantro, then sea salt and olive oil to taste.
  3. Divide into 6 small bowls, drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.