Dining Out Feed

The yin and yang of eating on vacation, or ‘Yay me!’

Sorry for the late post today. We spent the day doing exciting things like getting me new tires (I’m  HORRIBLE at maintaining my tires), grocery shopping and celebrating the teenager’s birthday (15! How’d that happen so soon?).

But I did get on the scale this morning, gleefully, I might add, because I knew this would happen:

I nearly always lose weight on vacation. I think it has to do with lots of walking, lack of boredom, no late-night kitchen to call to me, and a laserlike focus on balancing healthy choices with little indulgences here and there.

That means if a restaurant has excellent fried calamari, we split an appetizer three ways and I order a veggie-egg white omelet. Or if we want to check out a boutique ice cream parlor we go there FOR dinner instead of AFTER dinner.

EAT ALL THE VEGETABLESI also seek out what I call “vacation vegetables.”

No, these are not tourists on lounge chairs. 

I make sure that every chance I can, I find some vegetables or fruit to cram into a meal. It's very easy to go an entire day with nary a bit of greenery when traveling. Salads, veggie-packed omelets, extra vegetables on subs, fresh fruit -- I look for them all. It greatly helps balance out the carby, meaty, saucy stuff. 

This may seem a bit food-obsessive, but what follows are some culinary stops along the way of our trip to the Pacific Northwest with my reasoning behind my choices. Maybe it'll help you find that happy balance between egg whites and ice cream.


Diy nori rolls
A DIY nori roll with edamame, sticky rice and nori sheets at Cafe Yumm in Portland. I skipped the sauce and kept it clean.

Diy nori rolls
A banh mi from a Vietnamese food cart in Portland. I got extra cilantro, which didn't add a load of veg but it's high in micronutrients, and I love the stuff.

Diy nori rolls
A few of us popped into a sushi place in Portland. I had already eaten dinner, but there's always room for a seaweed nightcap! (I kinda have a thing for seaweed.)

Loaded quiznos
Road tripping to the mountains, we stopped at a Quiznos and I loaded up a small turkey sub with every vegetable they offered.

Loaded quiznos
The cool thing about this pulled pork and slaw sandwich at the Urban Farmer restaurant in the Nines Hotel was that it was "happy hour" sized. Perfect little, toddler-sized gem of a sandwich, which I paired with a chilled white gazpacho-type soup.

Loaded quiznos
The Portland Penny Diner has a really creative selection of breakfast sandwiches. This one is the Hipster, which features egg, pepperjack cheese, tomato and hazelnut romesco sauce. The sandwiches were so good that I was pleasantly full before I could finish it, so I didn't. That's the great thing about eating real food; a little goes a long way.

Loaded quiznos
Across from Pike Place Market in Seattle, we found Tom Douglas' Rub With Love Shack, where I ordered a barbecued chicken sandwich topped with a vinegary slaw.

Loaded quiznos
Nope -- no vegetables to be found here. But I really wanted to try Portland's Salt & Straw ice cream shop, so we went there for dinner. I got a scoop of Stumptown Coffee and Burnside Bourbon, and a scoop of Sea Salt Ice Cream With Caramel Ribbon. Indulgent? Sure, but I figured we saved hundreds of calories by skipping the meal and cutting right to dessert.


Happy fitbitYes, we did more than eat our way through Washington and Oregon. We walked a lot, even getting in a 2-hour hike, which seemed like it was uphill all the way. 

The centerpiece of the trip, for me at least, was the fourth annual Fitbloggin' conference, which involved daily workouts, sometimes more than a couple. I walked, Zumbaed, danced, got my butt kicked by a Total Gym, and pounded the pavement in nearly 100-degree heat (Portland? What was up with that?).

What I'm trying to say is it's all about balance, balance, balance. The celery and the ice cream. The gin and tonics and the ice water. The doughnut samples and the 5K's. The bacon and the ... bacon. (Oh, hell, that hotel bacon was good.)

But I had two slices of bacon, not a plateful. I didn't beat myself up about anything; I made sure I logged everything in My Fitness Pal and checked my Fitbit throughout the day. 

And it all worked out splendidly.


Will walk for food

Last night's dinner was a 4,000-step round-trip excursion to the local park for a food truck roundup.

Food truck invasion
Hey, it's March, it's below 80 degrees and we're taking advantage of the great weather.

(By the way, for you locals, the Food Truck Invasion is every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Plantation Heritage Park, on the corner of Peters Road and Fig Tree Lane.) 

Chicken paillardThe selection didn't really lean toward healthful fare. Burgers, fried calamari, lobster mac and cheese, burritos, ice cream ... you get the picture.

As much as I wanted to dive into a dish of lobster mac and cheese, I found an Italian food truck that offered a chicken paillard topped with salad and an olive-caper dressing.

Not as much fun as lobster mac and cheese but it didn't blow my eating plan to smithereens either, and that made it taste even better.

San pellegrino soda
Actually, it was a good thing I went light on dinner because the San Pellegrino I ordered was actually a 150-calorie Italian lemon soda (and thoroughly delicious).

And for dessert? A sweet close-up photo on one of Plantation's goofy, gnarly trees.

Tree closeup

A dose of super-tough love from Steve Siebold

Die tootsie pops
In Steve Siebold's world, there are no Halloween leftovers.

I love getting press releases from Steve Siebold's publicist. If you're not familar with Siebold, he wrote a book a few years ago called Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People.


There's no other way to say it: He's a weight-loss hard ass.

In his world, there is no slippage, corner cutting, no "just this once." And that's hard and it sucks.

That's why I love the press releases. They're like a bucket of cold water, a smack upside the head.

Today, I'm offering his tips for avoiding holiday weight gain. You may not agree with his all-or-nothing methodology, but he offers a no-nonsense approach to just getting it done.

This is from Steve:

  • 99% compliance on a diet is failure, even at the holidays! Sounds harsh, but if you’re going to get fit, it’s all or nothing. If you are in a committed relationship you wouldn’t cheat on your significant other just one time, so why would you cheat on something as important as your diet?
  • Before you put anything in your mouth, always ask yourself, “How is this food going to impact my health?”
  • If you’re on a diet during the holidays, don’t look at dieting as drudgery, but see it as a strategy for a lifetime to keep you healthy, looking good and feeling great.
  • Expect challenges such as cravings, and when this happens, have a plan in place to push forward and stay compliant.
  • Find happiness in the holidays not from food, but in time spent with friends and family creating a lifetime of memories and new traditions.
  • Realize that ultimately being fit and healthy is completely your responsibility, and blaming the holidays for your weight gain is just as bad as blaming other outside factors the rest of the year such as restaurants, the food manufacturers and portion sizes.

What I ate on my summer vacation

I was told when you bring your kids on vacation with you, it's called a trip. When you go without them, it's a vacation.  Since I'm newly divorced, I'm happy to have taken my kids on vacation with me.

We took a road trip up to Kissimmee, about 25 minutes south of Orlando. We stayed at a hotel with a waterpark.  The kids had a blast.  I was keeping the trip on the cheap. Knowing my budgetary limitations, I bought gas for 45 cents a gallon after using my FuelPerks from Winn-Dixie, and brought a case of bottled water, two boxes of cereal, a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter.

We shopped for Jimmy Dean D-Lights turkey sausage breakfast sandwiches when we found that our hotel room had a microwave and a mini-fridge.  The hotel even had a promotion where you could get a free weekday cabana rental for checking in three times on Foursquare.


Cabana fan
The cabana fan probably got more activity than me.

We arrived on Sunday night; Tuesday, we got our cabana.  I brought the loaf of bread and the peanut butter.  Dining poolside was quite nice in a cabana with a ceiling fan at full throttle.  


Our last night there, I took the kids out for one "fancy" meal.  My daughter saw an advertisement for the Cheesecake Factory and told me she never ate there.  All I could think about was Gail's Facebook post awhile back that said Cheesecake Factory has pasta carbonara on their menu that has over 2,500 calories.  I figured I'll either eat "safe" or not eat at all.  

The waitress handed each of us a menu the size of a phonebook (remember phonebooks?) and a long, skinny menu that featured its "Skinnylicious" fare.

Good. Done. There were my choices.

I got the pear and endive salad with chicken at 330 calories.  Disaster averted.

But this trip was pretty sedentary. Two days of sitting on my butt.  No theme parks for us (in the monsoon season and 150-degree weather?) No chance of beating Gail's step total.  When the kids tired of the waterslides, I poured them into the car and we went to the mall. I got my 5,000+ steps on the Fitbit every day and even managed to climb a couple flights of stairs.

So while I wasn't "military strict" while on vacation, it also wasn't a complete wash-out. I kept up the fitness and kept the calories in check.

In search of healthy food at new Marlins Park

If you know me, you know I'm a big baseball fan and we go to a lot of Marlins games (as well as games wherever we happen to be on vacation).

And I don't take the day off when it comes to eating healthfully. (Besides, hotdogs are a nightmare of fat and preservatives.)

Last night was opening night at the new Marlins Park. The team's old park, which it shared with the Miami Dolphins, was too big and too built for football so the new park is much better for watching the game.

And the food choices are better, too. At Sun Life Stadium, the only healthy choices were a grilled chicken sandwich, a sad, overpriced chicken salad, and the occasional veggie burger, when they could dig 'em out of the freezer and heat one up.

We had a lot of time to kill before Wednesday night's game, so I scouted out the cleaner, healthier dining options at the park. Here it is in pictures (taken with my phone so I apologize for the quality of some of 'em).

This is the first time I've seen a gluten-free concession at a sports stadium but I'm sure it's a growing trend, now that people are avoiding or cutting down on wheat and gluten. The prices are comparable with other concession stands at the park (ie: high), and there's a decent selection of entrees, desserts and even gluten-free beer. The chia chocolate muffin sounds promising.

Marlinspark_kidshackI like this idea: Kid-size portions of traditional ballpark food. Not only is it smart for little ones, it might be a good idea if you don't care to stuff yourself.

Among the healthy snacks are a fruit cup and a veggie and hummus cup.

These Kids Shacks are scattered throughout the park.









Marlinspark_miamimexsign Marlinspark_miamimexsign Marlinspark_miamimexsign

I decided to try the food at Miami Mex, which also has multiple locations throughout the stadium. I snapped the menu, above, to show the selections and prices (ballpark food ain't cheap, y'all).

At left are the grilled mahi mahi tacos, which come in a pair of flour tortillas. They were flavorful and loaded with colorful vegetables, which are hard to come by at sports events.

The tacos were good sized and had just a drizzle of the vinaigrette and aioli so the fat content wasn't out of control.

Below them was a very costly side of guacamole and chips, given the size of the guac cup. For $7 I thought I'd get enough guac to share with my family but it was probably a quarter cup at most. It was fresh and fairly tasty, but would have used a little more zip from citrus or peppers. When the concession worker saw my nonplussed face, she gave me some consolation salsa, which was excellent. The chips were plentiful but I could do without the red dye.

In addition, there's a kosher concession stand that offers cheeseburgers made with soy cheese, a kiosk that has fruit smoothies and juices and a frozen yogurt place at street level just outside the park. Some of the Cuban places offer rice and beans but it wasn't clear whether those choices were vegan (chicken stock often is used in the preparation). I also spied a shrimp burger but I haven't investigated what goes into it. Shrimp is a fantastic protein choice, but if it's held together with breadcrumbs and mayonnaise it's not worth the calories.

Next time I may hit up the Kids Shack for some hummus and veggies and bypass the $7 guacamole.

And what can you do if you want to bring your own food? Ballpark rules allow you to bring in a factory-sealed water bottle no bigger than 20 ounces and a single-serve food item in a clear plastic bag. And any fruit must be sliced (to avoid the errant apple being chucked on the field, I guess).

Calorie counts? They're not listed at the park, so the cleaner the food is, the easier it'll be to figure that stuff out.

Two servings, really? My Pei Wei experiment

One of the things I like about Pei Wei is that it has always been upfront with its nutritional stats. (HERE they are.) So with the husband out of town, I took the teenager out to dinner last night, and I was going to do something unprecedented:

Eat half my entree.

After all, the nutrition stats say that each Pei Wei entree is two servings but how often do you see people split one of those? Not very often, at least from what I've noticed.

In the past, I'd find the entree with the lowest amount of calories and eat all of it while nibbling a little of the brown (of course!) rice. But I wanted to know if I could really just eat half the entree and half the rice.

Guess, what? Not a problem. And I've documented my experiment in pictures.

Peiwei1I ordered the Sweet & Sour Shrimp. I know what you're thinking -- "Sweet & Sour Shrimp, are you crazy? That's a gooey fried disaster!" Well, not at this place. It's not gooey at all, and it's only lightly sweet, mostly from the pineapple chunks. I also always order my entrees there "stock velveted," which means the protein is cooked in stock instead of oil. It saves a ton of calories. This combo (without the rice) is only 170 calories a serving. The rice is another 170 calories a serving. The dish is also gluten-free, for those keeping track.  At right is the entire entree, enough for two (or so they say).

Peiwei4I then grabbed a to-go container, which is kept at the back of the restaurant with the forks for "gringos."

Before I downed even one morsel of rice, I grabbed the serving spoon and shoveled half the rice and half the entree into the container, closed it up and pushed it to the corner of the table.

Then I enjoyed my entree. I didn't have to guess and the uneaten food didn't stare back at me from the plate. It was safe and secure, locked in its little white box.

Below is what half of everything looks like:

And yes, that container called to me all evening but I knew that it'd still be there the next day.

So I ate it for breakfast! (Brown rice is a great breakfast food -- full of fiber, a little protein and whole grain.)

And now for a HealthBuzz:

Wordless Wednesday: Veggie spotting at Disneyland

Actually found skewered grilled vegetables in Disneyland's Frontierland -- peppers, squash, red onion and one little potato. They also have bacon-wrapped asparagus, which is great if you're counting carbs. The park also has bananas, Vitaminwater Zero and Powerade Zero in addition to bottled water so it's not all churros and turkey legs. Couple that with a half-marathon worth of walking and you should do OK at Mickey's place.

Spare the bun, save the fries


We don't need no stinkin' buns!

We don't live anywhere near an In-n-Out, so when we happen to be near one, that's the first place we go when the first available mealtime beckons -- except, perhaps breakfast time.

If you're not familiar with the legendary burger chain, they make burgers, fries and shakes -- that's it. So when we go once every other year, I order the same thing -- hamburger "protein style" (no bun), fries and a diet soda.

I relinquish the bread so that I can eat the fries -- it's all about compromise (hear that, Washington?)

Even with all that bread relinquishing, the whole meal is still close to 700 calories -- the burger's 250ish and the fries are around 400 (good thing I didn't spring for the shake!). But hey, that's what the gym is for. We make sure to bust our butts for an hour every morning to help offset the restaurant food.

Innoutnutrition In California, it's easy to discern the calories because, depending on the restaurant, it's either right up on the menu or available in a nutrition brochure.

It makes eating healthier much more simple -- there's no guessing, no fumbling for a phone app, no memory jogging. It let my kid know that his chocolate chip cookie had more calories than my entire strawberry-chicken salad at Panera Bread.

Is an In-n-Out Nutrition Facts brochure a ridiculous oxymoron? To some people it may seem so, but to me it's a clear roadmap to let me know that anything can fit in a healthy eating plan as long as you know the score.

Take me out to the ballgame: May I run the bases?

OK. I got the pork nachos out of my system.

Literally and figuratively.

Dolphin Stadium isn't a culinary bastion among ballparks. While we've had sushi and healthy turkey wraps at Dodger Stadium, grilled fish tacos at Petco Field in San Diego and crabcakes at Camden Yards (we go to a lot of baseball games on vacation), the fare in Miami is pretty ordinary -- hotdogs, burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches.

  But there is a relatively new barbecue stand, and their signature dish is a monstrosity known as "pork nachos."

It's a pile of tortilla chips blanketed in nacho cheese sauce and topped with pulled pork. Diners then can squirt a variety of barbecue sauces atop the whole thing.Everglades BBQ nachos

Miami New Times did a recent piece on Dolphin Stadium food and ran this photo of the Everglades BBQ pork nachos covered with peppers (hey, I didn't get peppers!).

Saturday we went to the Marlins game and as is custom, around the fourth inning I took the kid for his snack. Usually it's ice cream but we walked past that barbecue concession stand one too many times.

"Wanna split the nachos?" I asked conspiratorially.

C'mon, he's a 12-year-old boy. What do you think he's going to say?

As we walked to a table, pork nachos wobbling on the cardboard tray, you'd think I was carrying the Hope Diamond.

"Where did you get those?" more than one person asked. People pointed, stared and salivated at my feet.

So we split the nachos, walked laps around the table, then did a circuit around the ballpark (wow, those outfield dwellers really can't hold their booze!) and headed back to our seats. If I could have, I would have raced down to the field and trotted the bases. Burn calories, burn!

Craving finally sated, we now never have to get them again.

It's probably a bazillion calories and to put on my food critic hat, the nacho cheese sauce doesn't quite work with the smoky pulled pork flavors.

I compensated the next day by keeping calories low and myself busy.

Have a food or cooking-related catastrophe?

Check out Shrinking Sisters Reviews  for my latest post for The Daily Laugh. I'm part of a dozen bloggers who are writing every month on the foibles of living a healthy life. And check out the Daily Laugh Hub for other bloggers' stories and for a chance to win $150. Just leave a comment below on one of your cooking-related goofs. That'll buy a lot of pork nachos. Or not.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips!

Yesterday was crazy busy. Pick the kid up from school, take him to golf lessons, grab a bag of dinner at Subway and then home to eat, change into his baseball uniform and make it to the game by 6 p.m.

All of that in a little more than 2 hours.

Subway The Subway stop isn't a regular thing but we were seriously strapped for time and Subway is our go-to place for fast food. You have total control over what's going in your sub or salad and the calories are reasonable.

I usually get a footlong turkey sub on the bread with the highest fiber (even though the honey oat has 5 grams for a 6-inch, I get the 9-grain wheat at 4 grams of fiber because it has 210 calories instead of 260 calories). And then I run it through the garden -- every available veggie -- and a squirt of mustard.

When it came time for my son to ask for his toppings, he looked at the list and said to me "Oil? Why would anybody put oil on their sandwich?" Beats me, kid.

My son likes to grab a bag of baked chips with his sub but I don't do that anymore -- I don't need the extra 120 calories of fiberless carbs.

I would always ask him for a chip or two -- "just one!" I would say.

But yesterday I ended that. Mom doesn't want that chip anymore. The sandwich suits me just fine.

Just another thing I'm doing differently in 2010.