Staying Healthy When Dining Out

Going out to eat at a restaurant does not mean you have to give up your healthy habits to enjoy your meal. With the many temptations and smells surrounding you in a restaurant, it can get difficult trying to stick to your plan. Here are some ways to help you stay on track with those health goals when you dine out.

1) Prepare ahead of time

Reading over the menu before going to the restaurant gives you an idea of what you are going to be faced with so when you arrive, you have a plan. Looking through it will give you more time to carefully explore your options and to choose a couple of healthy items you may order when you get there. Most chain restaurants will even have their nutrition information on their website.

2) Know your menu lingo

When reading the menu, look for the words baked, grilled, roasted, light, boiled, steamed, poached. These are usually items that are not cooked in a lot of oil or butter. Steer clear of the words fried, buttered, pan fried, au gratin, creamed, crispy. These items are usually prepared with a lot of fat. 

3) Ask your server for some options

When you arrive at the restaurant, you already have an idea of what you may order because you looked it over ahead of time. However, you can always ask servers for their recommendation. You can say something along the lines of, “What would you recommend if I am looking for something lighter?” or “What are some of the healthier items on your menu?”

If your entree comes with sides, do not be afraid to ask the server if you can swap the fries for baked potato, steamed or roasted vegetables, or a side salad. In some cases, they may even be able to double the vegetables and replace the potatoes altogether.

When ordering items that come with sauces or dressings, ask for them on the side so you can control how much you want to add.

4) Be the first to order

You have your healthy choice in your head now that you have spent quite some time to plan ahead. However, your friend orders first and orders the crispy chicken and then it’s your turn. Do you reconsider your meal choice or stick with it? Your eating behaviors are highly influenced by those around you so to avoid the temptation, place your order first!

5) Hold the bread basket

Ask the server to hold the bread basket. If you want something to munch on while you wait, start with a salad to share to fill up on leafy greens before the main course arrives.

6) Choose one treat for the night

Pick only one treat to indulge in. Whether it is an appetizer, the bread basket, a drink, or dessert, truly savor every bite of your treat. However, remember to only stick with one treat, so be choosy!

Next time you are out, try these tips to make healthier choices and don’t let eating out sabotage your efforts for staying healthy!

Happy Dining out,

Joanna

Turkey Spinach Meatballs

After a long day, all I wish for is a yummy, quick, and easy recipe to whip up in the kitchen. This hearty recipe is not only delicious (yay for comfort food) but also will be ready in minutes! Because these meatballs are baked, it saves a lot of time. While they were baking, I was cleaning up and ta-da all done! I was ready to sit down and enjoy my meal. I wasn’t sure if spinach would be acceptable in a meatball but I gave it a try and my taste testers loved them! I served these with marinara sauce over whole wheat pasta (I didn’t have any spaghetti at home but penne worked just fine) and sprinkled the meatballs with parmesan cheese.

turkey-spinach-meatballs

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 stalks green onion, finely sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions 

  1. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat and cook the spinach until wilted. Set aside and let cool. After it is cooled down, use paper towels and squeeze the spinach until all the excess water has been drained out.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the minced garlic, parsley, oregano, turkey, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, green onion, and egg. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Using an ice cream scooper, scoop out the mixture and form into balls (you should have about 24).
  5. Place on a greased baking sheet, leaving a little space in between each meatball.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven and serve with whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce.

Happy cooking,

Joanna

Banana Bread

One of my favorite desserts is a warm slice of banana bread. Not only does it smell amazing when it is baking in the oven, but also is super easy to make! Here is my lighter version of this classic. I made this during the holidays and it was a crowd pleaser!

banana-bread

Serves 10

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter 
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional chopped nuts or chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time until well combined. Then add the bananas and applesauce, beat until incorporated well.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the two flours, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture into the banana mixture. Stir on low, add vanilla and any optional additions (nuts or chocolate chips) you decide to use.  
  5. Stir on low until just combined together. 
  6. Pour into greased loaf pan.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes, cut into slices and enjoy!

Happy baking,

Joanna

 

Winter Wellness

Now that it’s getting chilly outside, it is easy to stay in bed in cozy pajamas with a warm cup of hot chocolate and hibernate.  I have lived in the Northeast my whole life and winter is still my least favorite season. I rarely get sick but when I do, it is always around this time of the year. Even though it may be tempting to hibernate indoors and be a couch potato all day, this is the time when our bodies need us to take care of them the most.

Don’t let the winter blues keep you from your sticking to your goals of staying healthy year-round. Not only do our immune systems take a hit during the winter (hello flu season), but we also tend to spend more time cooped up indoors, which also affects our physical and mental health.

Staying Active 

It can be tempting to take a break from exercising during the winter months but it is important to remember that getting used to skipping workouts can lead to some even harder changes when spring comes and you are trying to get back into shape.

While getting up to go to the gym may sound like the last thing you want to do on a cold winter day, there here are some ways you can still stay active.

  • Next time you meet up with friends, you can suggest a fun outing such as bowling, rock climbing or ice skating which involves some physical activity.
  • During the work day, you can take opt to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • If you need to do your holiday shopping, you can also get some steps in by walking around the mall.
  • If you’re inside your home, it’s the perfect time to get those household chores done. Remember that vacuuming, scrubbing, cleaning all involve some work!

Also, keep in mind that regular exercise is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system, which is crucial during this time of the year. 

Eating Well

Getting sick during the holidays is not fun! Eating well can help maintain a healthy immune system, making it easier to fight off these yucky germs. Be sure to include foods in your day that are rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and zinc such as pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, oranges, peppers, strawberries, chicken, beans, fortified cereals, and whole grains. With the lack of sunlight during winter, we miss out on our sunshine vitamin! Less sunlight means less vitamin D, which means we need to be more diligent in supplementing or trying to get outside when the sun is out (more motivation for going outside in the cold!).

Have a happy and healthy holidays,

Joanna

Pecan Crusted Maple Dijon Salmon

During my recent trip to New Orleans, I found pecans almost everywhere I went, from pie to pralines and even on top of fish! After trying Commander’s Palace‘s classic (and delicious) pecan crusted gulf fish, I was inspired to whip up something of my own with a pecan crust on top. Pecans are rich in antioxidants and contain heart-healthy fat, fiber, protein, and magnesium. The contrast between the sweetness from the maple syrup, the tanginess from the mustard, and the crunchiness from the panko breadcrumbs makes it one of my favorite ways to eat salmon. This pecan crusted maple dijon salmon is bursting with flavor and only takes 12-15 minutes to cook in the oven!

pecan-crusted-salmon-2Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of fresh salmon
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, maple syrup, and olive oil.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, pecans, and thyme.
  4. Cut salmon into 4 portions (4 ounces each). Pat dry with paper towel and season each fillet with salt and pepper.
  5. Place on a greased baking sheet and spread the maple-dijon mustard mixture on top of each piece of salmon. 
  6. Press the panko pecan mixture on top of each fillet.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes in the oven. You will know when it is ready if it flakes easily with a fork. Enjoy! 

Happy cooking,

Joanna

Fluffy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin is another fall favorite of mine. It has a beautiful bright orange color (just like butternut squash!) thanks to the antioxidant beta carotene, important for immunity, and skin and eye health. It is also loaded with fiber and potassium. For this Thanksgiving, I whipped up some healthy fluffy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for my family and they loved it! If you like soft, chewy cake-like cookies, this is the recipe for you!

pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies

Makes 16 cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin 
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup chocolate chips, some more for sprinkling on top
  • Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray. 
  2. Using a mixer, beat the softened butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, greek yogurt, applesauce and pumpkin puree and beat until well mixed together.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture into the mixer. After cookie dough is well mixed, stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with additional chocolate chips if desired.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly browned around the edges.
  7. Remove from the oven, let cool and enjoy!

Happy baking,

Joanna

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Happy fall and happy squash season! I look forward to the delicious sweet and nutty taste of butternut squash every year. This squash season I decided to put a twist on one of my favorite comfort foods, mac and cheese. Butternut squash is loaded with beta carotene (say hello to pretty hair and skin), vitamin C (to support a healthy immune system), and fiber (to get things moving along). Give your mac and cheese a nutritional boost by incorporating some butternut squash into it!
img_5226

Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces of whole wheat or regular elbow macaroni
  • 1 pound of butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cup smoked gouda, shredded (you can use some cheddar or any cheese you like)
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add squash chunks. Reduce to a low simmer and cook until squash is soft, about 20-25 minutes.
  2. While the butternut squash is cooking, bring another pot of water to boil. Add the elbow macaroni and cook until al dente, drain and set aside.
  3. When the butternut squash is done cooking, drain the water and mash squash with a potato masher or a fork.
  4. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the panko breadcrumbs and toast by stirring occasionally, until golden-brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Place a large saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil and onions and cook for 2 minutes until softened. Add 3 tablespoons of whole wheat flour, combine well together and slowly whisk in the chicken stock, squash puree, and then milk. Slowly stir in grated cheeses and season with cracked black pepper.
  6. Gently fold in the cooked elbow macaroni into the pan with the cheese sauce and toss to combine well. Top with toasted panko breadcrumbs, divide, and dig in!

Happy fall,

Joanna