Be salad smart when eating out

See the word salad on a menu and you assume it’s got to be the healthiest thing on there, right? Wrong, unfortunately. Restaurants love to load up salads with any and every unhealthy thing, like fried foods, to destroy the basic salad.

You're left with a relatively healthy salad with chicken.
You’re left with a relatively healthy salad with chicken.

WebMD recently ran this guide on what to avoid in restaurant salads.  Basics you should already kn0w — avoid creamy dressings, croutons and lots of cheese on a  salad, they’re all fat bombs waiting to destroy your insides.

Olive oil and vinegar is the best dressing option. I now carry my own with me because I’m continually surprised how many places don;t offer that as an option.

Sadly, one option I do like, dried cranberries, is on the bad list here because of the amount fo sugar in dried fruit. Bye cranberries. Continue reading “Be salad smart when eating out”

Meals to avoid when eating out

Restaurant food generally is a minefield of fat, salt and sugar so as tasty as it might seem, it’s best to avoid it as much as possible when you’re trying to eat something resembling a healthy diet.

Check my Eating Away from Home page for some of the least unhealthy alternatives I’ve found at various restaurants. And if you want to know what to avoid, this article, These are the most unhealthy meals in America, ranked is a good place to start.

Chicken parm pizza style? Really. Avoid it.

On the list:

Chicken Parmesan “Pizza Style” at The Cheesecake Factory. I haven’t eaten at a Cheesecake factory in more than six years, since my first stent went in. Even the salads there are loaded with so much unhealthy stuff they make a mockery of any expectation that  salad will be a healthy choice. This dish totals 1,870 calories, basically a day’s worth. The article doesn’t get into salt and fat but I’m sure it’s mega-artery clogging. Continue reading “Meals to avoid when eating out”

Some happy talk about the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet has become a favorite of nutritionists in recent years, especially for those with heart and other ailments. Now a new study that looked at a lot of earlier studies thinks it also can help mood.

Veggie plates are common in Italy, why can’t U.S. places offer the same?

“The evidence so far pointed to the idea that the foods we eat can make a difference in lowering our risk of depression, even though there is no solid clinical proof yet,” reports the BBC in detailing the new study in Molecular Psychiatry. The study reviewed 41 studies published within the last eight years. Continue reading “Some happy talk about the Mediterranean Diet”

Restaurant review: Five & Dime had bar food, but a surprise or two

Rooftop bars and restaurants are having their moment in Chicago these days, with people willing to pay up for expensive drinks that come with views of the city skyline.

My Chicago suburb has its own entry in the rooftop derby, albeit not one that looks at the skyline of Chicago. Five and Dime is mostly outdoor dining above two other restaurant below it. My brother-in-law wanted to go there for his recent birthday dinner.

Looking at the menu on-line, something I do whenever I go out to eat so I can search ahead for any low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar offerings, the only thing I saw that might possibly be ok for me was a salmon grilled with charred lemon, farro & quinoa, tomato, basil, olive oil for $23.75.

My poke at Five and Dime
My poke at Five and Dime

Grilled salmon tends to be my go-to at most upscale restaurants and I usually ask for it without whatever sauce or butter mixture they try to put on it.

But it gets tiring to have salmon every time I eat out, so I decided to try something else, a poke bowl with Ahi tuna sashimi over steamed rice, sesame seaweed salad, vegetables, spicy Kewpie aioli, tobiko & a big tempura shrimp for $16.75.

Poke bowls are another culinary hotspot these days, but I’ve read they can be unhealthy, primarily because many are loaded with white rice which I’ve been told by nutritionists not to eat. Sushi rice, often used in poke bowls, also contains more sugar, another reason to avoid it.

But the thought of some fresh ahi tuna applied to me, so I tried the Poke at Five and Dime. I was pleasantly surprised, first because there was not a massive amount of rice in it.

The tuna was fresh and tasty, I had the aioli brought on the side and didn’t eat it after tasting how spicy, and likely salty, it was. The seaweed was tasty, although I worry if there was salt on it. The pieces of cucumber were fresh and unadorned which was fine with me.

Did it fill me up? No, not really, but it was good. The birthday boy, meanwhile, got a big slab of ribs while my wife went with barbecued brisket. Neither healthy but they smelled and looked so good.

My wife’s brisket and fries.

Lettuce recalls are everywhere this summer, take care

After my first stent was put in back in 2012, the hospital nutritionist I consulted with basically told me the only thing I could eat for lunch was lettuce.

This is what a Costco food court Caesar salad looks like when you unwrap it, a giant cup of fat-filled Caesar dressing and a mound of high-salt, high-fat grated cheese
Salads like this Costco one have been off my menu this summer because of recall after recall.

So lunch salads have pretty much become my daily routine. But not this summer. Lettuce recalls have been popping up at both places to eat out like McDonald’s and food retailers like Trader Joe’s and Kroger.  Continue reading “Lettuce recalls are everywhere this summer, take care”

A vacation breakfast challenge — avoid the pastry

Vacation eating is always fraught with tension for anyone concerned about their salt, saturated fat and sugar intake. It becomes even more of a challenge in a country like Italy with all its wonderful gastronomic creations.

I’ve been vacationing in southern Italy and trying to stick to simple seafood dishes for dinner, but breakfast presents its own challenges. Continue reading “A vacation breakfast challenge — avoid the pastry”

Vacation eating — joy or fear?

Maintaining a heart-healthy diet takes a lot of inner discipline given that we’re surrounded by so many food options that are high in salt, saturated fat and sugar. The task becomes even more daunting when you’re on vacation, especially in a foreign country with even more foods you love.

I’ve been vacationing in Italy, my ancestral homeland, with a large group of cousins. That means meals here have been wonderful family affairs with so many food options its difficult to count them all. But most involve salt and sugar. What to do, fear everything I eat or put diet concerns aside for the duration of the trip?

Pasta portions are smaller in Italy, thankfully.

I’m trying to walk a middle ground, which has meant ordering seafood as often as possible and minimizing my pasta, pastry and gelato intake. Southern Italy is a wonderful place to eat seafoods. I had a piece of amberjack in a light tomato sauce last night, for example, something I rarely see on US menus.

I’ve also had oysters and clams, albeit with pasta. Pasta portion sizes are smaller here than in the US, which is a good thing since we tend to fill plates to overflowing at home.

Gelato, of course, is the hardest goodie to pass up, especially when everyone else keeps pushing for it. And with that, I don’t do small portions well.

Grilled vegetables are on every menu in Italy, a wonderful, simply side dish .

I’m assuming I’ll gain weight on this trip, we’ll see how much when I’m back in the States and have a scale again. Then it will also be back to strictly watching the salt, fat and sugar,

Costco says bye, bye to chocolate frozen yogurt, I say #byebyeCostco

Costco shopping followed by a meal there has been a regular Thursday ritual for me since at least 2006, first for shopping and dinner at its food court and, since I retired in 2015, for Thursday shopping and lunch.

Costco’s food court frozen yogurt swirl, consisting of fat-free vanilla and fat-free chocolate frozen yogurt, is one of the few dessert treats I can reasonably eat on my heart-healthy restricted diet.

What had been my weekly Costco lunch is no more. Who dumps chocolate from the vanilla-chocolate combo? Shame on you Costco.
What had been my weekly Costco lunch is no more. Who dumps chocolate from the vanilla-chocolate combo? Shame on you Costco.

That’s why I was shocked and despondent this past Thursday when I went to order my usual lunch, a salad and a twist of frozen yogurt, only to be told Costco was no longer selling chocolate frozen yogurt at the food court!!!

A little online research found others already have posted about this, apparently the former $1.39 frozen yogurt twist is being replaced by a bowl of frozen acai sherbet with berries and granola for $5.99!!!!

Obviously Costco is trying to appeal to Millennials, who are not shopping there now, with this new offering.

It’s also trying to do it on the cheap by making the new sherbet in the machines that had made the chocolate yogurt rather than bringing in new equipment so it could be offered it in addition to the chocolate yogurt (the vanilla will stay on the other side of the same frozen dessert making machines). Continue reading “Costco says bye, bye to chocolate frozen yogurt, I say #byebyeCostco”

Another look at what to eat at restaurants

Almost all restaurant food is awash in salt, far and sugar, so eating out is a challenge for anyone concerned about their heart-health. I’ve created a page of options for eating out that I’ve found, but I’m always on the lookout for other advice. Cooking Light magazine recently ran this piece, These are the Healthiest Meal Choices at 35 Popular Chain Restaurants.

This is what a Costco food court Caesar salad looks like when you unwrap it, a giant cup of fat-filled Caesar dressing and a mound of high-salt, high-fat grated cheese
Stick to salad when eating on the run, and take out the high-fat dressing and cheese. Always carry your own oil and vinegar packets to use instead.

Keep in mind, healthiest doesn’t necessarily mean healthy, it just means least bad.Still, if you find yourself stuck at a Boston Market or an Au Bon Pain, for example, this list may help you.

I was intrigued that the McDonald’s choices didn’t include a salad without the dressings, which are loaded with salt. I always carry my own oil and vinegar so I’m not tied to any dressing served by a restaurant.

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