Friday Feature: Restaurant Spotlight – Taco Time

Chicken Soft Taco, Whole Wheat Tortilla, No Cheese

Have you been searching for another fast food option that lends to a healthy choice and is not full of gobs of extra calories?  Look no further . . . Taco Time is to the rescue.  Now, just as eating out is rarely better than eating in (because we have NO control on everything they actually add to the individual components of a dish), you’ll find that the nutritional value is not perfect, but it’s close and offers an option when an option is needed.

I’ve been eating at Taco Time for years because I know exactly what I can order that will give me a balanced meal of carbohydrates and protein . . . AND, will still allow me to stay within my calorie guidelines.  Here’s exactly what I order:

1 Chicken Soft Taco (which is really the size of a burrito when comparing to other taco joints)
Made on a Whole Wheat Tortilla
No Cheese

First, you must know that Taco Time offers wheat tortillas.  So, almost anything you order there can be ordered with a wheat tortilla . . . all you have to do is ask.

You should also know that they have a salsa and onion bar located in the restaurant.  Since veggies are virtually free . . . that means tomato-based salsas.  So, I love to get a little bit of pico and mild salsa to add to my tacos.

So, when you’re out-and-about and you forgot to pack a lunch, or whatever your reason for not being able to make your own lunch for the day . . . let Taco Time be on your list of healthy fast food stops.  Just remember to order correctly and not to give in to any of those calorie-laden options (which Taco Time also has plenty of).

If you need a quick reminder of how and what to order when eating out, click here for a nice guideline.  You’ll quickly see why this menu option at Taco Time is a good choice. 

Nutritional Information Per Chicken Soft Taco
(No Cheese, on a Whole Wheat Tortilla)
Calories:  381
Protein:  29g
Carbs:  51g
Fat:  5g (1.5g = Sat.)
Fiber:  11g

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Friday Feature: Chick-Fil-A

You wanna do lunch at Chick-Fil-A?  Count me in!  This a a great place to get healthy fast food.  There are a few options that are well balanced in nutrition and they taste great too!

Here’s your WOW factor for the day.  I went and tallied the nutritional information for a chicken sandwich meal at a VERY common fast food restaurant.  The meal included a spicy chicken sandwich, medium fries, and a medium Coke.  Here is the amazing total:

Calories:  1190 (what the!?)
Protein:  32g
Carbs:  176g (this is NOT a type-o)
Fat:  42g (10g = Sat.)
Fiber:  9g
Sugars:  74g (thanks to the Coke)

Okay . . . let’s bring ourselves back into focus!  Depending on who you are, the average lunch should be somewhere between 300 and 400 calories.  Let’s take a look at Chick-Fil-A and see if we can make something work there.

The picture I took above is what I order most when I go to Chick-Fil-A.  It’s their Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich.  It comes on a wheat bun and includes a boneless breast of chicken, dill pickles, lettuce, and tomato.  You ready for some awesome nutritional facts?  Here they are:

Chargrilled Chicken Sandiwch
Calories:  290
Protein:  29g
Carbs:  36g
Fat:  4g (1g = Sat.)
Fiber:  3g
Sugars:  9g

Now, that’s what I’m talking about!  You can even add a healthy side if you want.  A cup of fruit (since Chick-Fil-A is awesome and includes this as a menu option) is only an additional 70 calories.  A side salad with cheese is also only 70 more calories (order without cheese and it’s going to be closer to 30 calories) and they even have a reduced fat Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing that is deeelish! (Take note however that there are 2 servings in the packet of dressing they give you.  But, do not feel cheated because it’s still A LOT of dressing.)

If you’re a salad eater, the Chargrilled Chicken & Fruit salad is a wonderful option . . . coming in at 220 calories.  Order it with that reduced fat Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing and you’ll reach about 300 calories.

For those of you wondering about the Chargrilled Chicken Wraps . . . they aren’t a bad option, but they’re not your BEST option.  They come in at 410 calories.  If any of you know me, I’m all about quantity and I would WAY rather get a sandwich AND fruit for my calories.  But, I suppose there are probably some of you out there that love a good wrap even more.

So, it looks like we have another lunch spot!  Come on; let’s go!!

Friday Feature: Restaurant Spotlight – Cafe Rio

Who does not LOVE Cafe Rio, or a restaurant similar in nature (Costa Vida, Bajio’s, Chipotle, etc.)?  If you find someone who doesn’t love these places, let me know because they would come from a rare and unique breed!

One of the most common questions that come from my clients is, “where can I eat out and what can I order.”  While I’ve given pretty good (well, maybe GREAT) guidelines in a previous post, most of my clients will specifically ask for instructions on how to order at Cafe Rio (or similar places).  I finally decided that, due to the abundant questions in similar nature, this was blog worthy.

Did you know that a typical, full-size salad will be over 1200 calories at these places?!  Holy moly!  That’s practically an entire day’s worth of calories for a lot of people.   Well, I’ve figured out a way to order a tasty salad, and I’ve cut more than half of those calories out!  Here’s how you do it, folks!

Remember, we’re looking for a balanced meal of a lean protein, one serving of a complex carbohydrate, and veggies.  Here’s how we get it!

Instead of ordering a full salad, you’re going to order a Grilled Chicken Tostada Salad with a soft shell tortilla (order wheat if they have wheat ones…most locations do) and no cheese.  You will need to choose rice or black beans as we don’t need multiple complex carbohydrates in one meal, so you get to choose one.  If interested, black beans will be a more nutritious choice.  Now, veggies are “free” (so-to-speak) so load up on the lettuce and the pico (I often times ask for an extra scoop of pico de gallo).  As you wrap up your salad order you’ll want to ensure you don’t get the sour cream or the tortilla strips.  Order the vinaigrette dressing (cilantro-lime dressing = YUM) and NOT the creamy tomatillo dressing.  They usually put the dressing on the side for you, so you shouldn’t have to ask them to do that.  And, when you actually go to eat your salad, you should only need about half of it (the dressing, that is!).

This will put you in the 400-500 calorie range.  Now, that’s some serious calorie cutting right there!

If you want to further cut calories, you can also cut out the tortilla altogether and eat none of the dressing.  I actually find that if I order extra pico, the flavor is enhanced enough that I enjoy the salad perfectly without the dressing!

So, in summary . . . We are going to go from a 1200+ calorie entree to a 400-500 calorie entree by ordering:

A Grilled Chicken Tostada Salad,
On a soft-wheat tortilla,
No Cheese,
Black Beans,
No Rice,
Lots of lettuce,
Lots of Pico de Gallo
Cilantro,
Guacamole,
and Cilantro-Lime Dressing on the Side

Deeeeeeeelish, if you ask me!  And, you don’t have to feel like you’re ever deprived from eating at one of your most favorite places!  Anyone want to meet me for lunch?  Let’s go!

Friday Feature: Fitness Tip – Staying Fit On Vacation

My recent vacation to Hawaii places this topic fresh on my mind!  I had a fabulous time.  I was able to accomplish all that I wanted!  I relaxed, exercised, ate well, indulged some, and played hard.  The good news is that I also avoided weight gain!  HOORAY!!

We all know that vacationing can pose challenges when trying to remain fit and healthy!  For many of us, vacation time means taking a break from exercise and nutritious eating.  Unfortunately, our bodies don’t really care where we are and just because we are on vacation doesn’t mean that the rules of nutrition and fitness do not apply (bummer, right!?).  I’ve done it all while on vacation; I’ve gained weight, lost weight, and maintained.  I pretty much get how to accomplish any of these 3 options.  My preferable option is to maintain while on vacation because I think it offers good balance.  I HATE gaining while on vacation because every time I do, I look back and never say it was worth it (the extra food, lack of exercise, etc. that pack on the food leave me feeling regretful and icky).

So, to avoid weight gain (whether you’re visiting relatives, relaxing on the beach, or exploring new places), here are some simple tips to consider when going on vacation.

1.  PLAN AHEAD FOR EXERCISE.  Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean that you need to take a break from exercise and nutritious eating.  Before I go anywhere, I always check to see what kind of work-out facilities are available for me to use (whether it be in my hotel or at a local gym in the city).  If no work-out facilities are available, I pack my own gym.  A resistance band can do wonders while on vacation and it hardly takes up any room at all!  I also look for local running/walking/biking trails as these are usually strategically placed in beautiful areas ( I love new landscape for my runs) and tend to be much safer to use (versus running in a strange city that I am unfamiliar with).  While in Hawaii, I did indeed pack my resistance band.  I also ran along a paved trail that stretched from Laie to Kahuku.  It somewhat bordered the beach; it was wonderful!

Working Out With My Sisters In Hawaii

2.  BE PREPARED.  Be prepared by taking healthy food with you.  However you decide to travel (car, airplane, train), be prepared by packing healthy food for the actual travel portion of your trip.  Once you get to your destination, continue to pack healthy snacks with you as you go out-and-about.  You’ll always want to start each day out with a full and nutritious breakfast and then pack easy and simple snacks with you to eat during the day.  Healthy snacking during the day will help to regulate your blood sugars and it will reduce over-eating at main meals.  Having your own healthy food options will save you from eating whatever is available (which is usually NOT healthy).    During my Hawaii trip I packed my suitcase with protein powder, oatmeal, meal replacement bars, jerky, almonds, and organic fruit leather.

3.  WATCH YOUR PORTIONS.  Regardless of being on vacation or not, portions still matter!  Watch your portion sizes to avoid weight gain.

4.  AVOID EATING-OUT DISASTERS.  If you follow the tips I’ve already given you here, you should come out just fine! I was fortunate enough to stay in a house with a full kitchen while I was in Hawaii, so I was able to eat a lot of my meals at home.  If you have that opportunity, take it!  Try to find balance in eating in and dining out.  I’m not going to lie, I think my favorite dinner meals were had at the beach house.

Here I am with Nic at Cholo's in Haleiwa. It's a tasty Mexican place.

5.  INDULGE IN MODERATION.  If you’re like me, you want to have some “fun eating” while on vacation.  None of us like to feel deprived, right!?  I particularly like to taste local cuisine and try eating at places that I cannot find at home.  While in Hawaii I allowed myself one food indulgence (or cheat) each day.  That seemed to keep me happy without feeling too deprived.   I also tried to focus more on the daily experiences and building memories with my family.  Other ideas on how to keep your “cheating” in moderation include possibly having one scoop of ice cream instead of the sundae, or split that decadent dessert with a travel companion (I tried both of these ideas while in Hawaii).  Usually a small taste will satisfy most of us.

Mom & I enjoying shave ice at the infamous Matsumoto's!

6.  ENJOY YOUR DESTINATION.  Wherever you go, find ways to enjoy your destination in a healthy and fit way!  I mean, why not make the food and the exercise fun, right!?  For nutrition you can take advantage of local fruits (like I did in Hawaii with Pineapple and Mango) and local food that is best in that location (such as seafood if you’re by the sea).  For exercise, depending on your destination, you can run/walk along the beach, go kayaking in the ocean, take advantage of local trails, plan a morning stroll to a farmer’s market, rent a bike and go for a scenic ride, find a local yoga/pilates/zumba class, etc.  This article has several more ideas on how to to find fun ways to get your exercise in while on vacation.  While in Hawaii, I did plenty of this!

My sister and I decided to go hiking. We found a local trail that we could hike on for free that was right by our house.

The hike ended up being about 7 miles (round-trip) and we were lucky enough to see some waterfalls.

The views were unbelievable! This one captures the lush greenery, but you can also see the beach and the ocean in the distance. GORGEOUS!!

Of course, swimming and boogie-boarding in the ocean was a must! Nic & I had a blast doing this together!

I spent lots of time in the sun just relaxing too (mostly with my mom and sister)! This is my only biological sister. I love her more than words can say! I had to put this picture in here because she is close to my thoughts today. She is leaving me and moving out of state this very day (she's on the road as I post this). She will be gone for 3 years as her husband completes his schooling, and I tear up at the thought of having her gone for that long. It looks like I'll have to plan lots of "vacations" to see her! I love you, sis!

SO – whatever you do or whatever destination you land in, shoot for success!  You can still find a lot of ways to have fun on vacation without gaining weight.  If you ask me, that’s a win-win-win!

Friday Feature – Rumbi Restaurant Spotlight

Every Friday I plan to do a “Friday Feature” where I will do a non-recipe post, yet the post will be something related to the health industry.  It might be a fitness or health tip, a book review, a restaurant spotlight, etc.  This first FF post is a restaurant spotlight.  Before we review the restaurant, let’s go over some basic tips to consider when eating out.

Eating Out 101
Here are some helpful tips to consider when placing your order at restaurants.

  • Remember to eat a reasonable portion.  Most restaurants serve double or triple the recommended portion amount.  To avoid eating everything in front of you, as for a to-go box to come out with your meal.  When your meal and to-go box arrive, immediately place half of the meal in the to-go box to eat at a later time.
  • Food combinations are important to consider.  A healthy meal will generally consist of a portion of lean protein, a complex or starchy carbohydrate, and vegetables.  When looking for meal options, be sure to look for something that meets this criteria.  Beware of added complex or starchy carbohydrates as most restaurants sneak these in where they can (for example: chips & salsa, bread baskets, popcorn, rice, black beans, etc.).  We generally should only eat one complex/starchy carbohydrate per meal.
  • Avoid extra oils and butters.  Most restaurants cook EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) in oil and/or butter.  Did you know that before a steak is served and nice slab of butter is placed on top of it to melt as soon as it comes off the grill?  This is the case with most items on any restaurant’s menu.  SO, when placing your order be sure to remind your server that you would like no butter/oils on any part of your meal.  And, if possible, have your meats grilled.
  • Avoid dressings, condiments, cheeses, etc. that are packed with calories and fats.  Ask for reduced fat or fat free dressings/condiments and always order dressings and condiments on the side so you can control how much you really eat.
  • Get used to making special requests.  Study the descriptions of menu options and be ready to tell your server what to leave out of the dish.  You may need to order a Southwestern salad without cheese or tortilla strips (remembering to ask for a vinaigrette dressing on the side).  You may end up ordering a grilled chicken sandwich with no mayonnaise.
  • In summary, order smart by eating the right portion size for you, staying within your calorie limits, and following the proper combination guideline.

Now. . . on to our restaurant spotlight of Rumbi Island Grill.
Rumbi has some fabulous healthy options that allow us to stay within the guidelines above.  I took my beautiful mom to lunch earlier in the week and we made great choices.

My mom ordered a rice bowl.  At Rumbi you have your choice of meat (steak, chicken, or shrimp) and you can actually order brown rice with it.  Hooray!  As you can see, it comes with vegetables too.  The only semi-scary part about the rice bowls is the sauce.  So, in following the guidelines above, always request the sauce on the side and use the very least amount you can while still enjoying the meal and the flavors.  You’ll want to make note that, true to restaurant form, the serving of the complex/starchy carbohydrate (rice) is much larger than the typical person should truly consume.  So, eat half of the rice and take the rest of it home.  Rumbi even has to-go boxes right on the condiment bar, so you can grab one before you start eating, place half of the rice in the box, and then gobble up what is left in your bowl.  Genius!

I ordered this Voodoo Chicken Salad.  Ordering salads can be scary.  They always seem like the perfect thing to order, but most restaurant really know how to add fat and calories to salad to make them really taste awesome.  When I order salads I get very picky.  Like most things, I read the entire description of the salad so I know what to ask the server to leave off it.  In this particular instance, the only things on this salad that I needed to be removed were the tortilla strips.  I then asked about the dressings they offered.  Even though most of the dressings on the Rumbi menu say they are vinaigrettes, I wanted to be sure they were reduced fat or fat free.  Come to find out . . . they only have one dressing that fits this requirement.  It was the Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette.  I ordered that one (on the side of course) and I loved it!  Last, but not least, I reviewed my salad to make sure I had a lean protein, vegetables, and a complex/starchy carbohydrate.  If I count the pita wedge as my complex carbohydrate, then all requirements are filled.  The pita isn’t preferred as it is white, and it’s not very big.  So, when I really want to get picky and know I have truly satisfied my food combination requirement, I ask to have black beans added to my salad and Rumbi happily obliges.  This is truly one of my very favorite salads at Rumbi.

Now that we know all the ins and outs of restaurant ordering (and we know of a fabulous restaurant we can go to), let’s make tonight a DATE NIGHT, shall we!?