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Mindful Munching: Restaurant Smarts

Answering the “what’s for dinner” question is something most of us face every night. I have that covered for the most part.  My OCD/Type-A/Dietitian brain takes heart and love in planning my meals (a week in advance) and make my grocery lists (or any list, to be completely honest). My planning habits fall into play as far as planning for meal times when my Fireman and I dine out. 
One of my (many) resolutions this year is to be more mindful of my munching habits.  I have it pretty well maintained, I’d say- but sometimes my habits are less than desirable.  Mainly because I really love chips.  No, kidding.. well, actually, I do love chips.  But, I’m not talking about that right now.  I really enjoy the occasional dining out option.  Its such a treat because we don’t do it that often- almost never during the week, and maybe once on the weekend.  As much as I love eating out, the atmosphere, someone waiting on me, etc..I still feel like I should watch what I put in my mouth.   While there are some healthful choices in dining out, taking out, as well as boxed and prepared meals from the market, we have to be careful about what we are choosing/ordering to eat- seeing that we have no control over the chef in the back.  Lets face it, he/she really doesn’t care if your on a diet, have high blood pressure, or dealing with diabetes.  They just want to make it tast good.. and by ‘good’ I mean more oil, cream, butter, salt, and all that in between. 
A few tips to remember when dining out
  • Remember the plate rule: your plate should consist of ¼ carbohydrate, ¼ protein, and ½ vegetables.  You’ll be green in the face and sick to your tummy before you eat too many calories in broccoli.  Just sayin.
  • Suggest restaurants that offer healthy selections when going out to eat with friends or family. 
  • Look at menus and nutrition information before you arrive at a restaurant. Make your selection and avoid looking at the rest menu when you arrive- studies have shown that those that check the menu ahead of time make healthier choices than those that don’t.
  • Have a healthy snack before you get to the restaurant or add a broth based soup or a salad before your meal. This makes you less likely to overeat.
  • Portion size is important! If you really want a less healthy choice, try ordering a small, lunch or child’s size. Also, choose side items like fruit or vegetables over the fries or mac and cheese.
  • Avoid the heavy chef hand and have all dressings, sauces, gravies, dips, etc. served on the side.
  • Never make pasta, rice, or potatoes the meal.  Order a protein and have them as a side dish.  Again, watch what sauces, butters, etc, it is cooked in or covered with.
  • Avoid drinks with high calories like sodas, sugar-sweet tea, alcohol, juice, etc.

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Orrrr, you can cook at home more often.  Not only to manage cost (my Fireman and I can’t get out of a restaurant for less than $30 these days- yeeessshh) but, when cooking at homeyou control what goes into your dinner so you can monitor fat, sodium, and calories. I know you’ve heard me say that before.  But, cooking at home also means taking time to prepare a meal after a long day of work, whether it be away from the home, or within the home- its still work.   


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What if I offer you realistic weeknight options that come together fast? (Somewhat) short ingredient lists that are mainly kitchen staples, and are ready in an hour or less (indeed, done in about 35 minutes or so). How does that sound to you? 

I’ll take it :)

Hoisin Chicken & Rice Noodles
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground chicken breast

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons ground fresh chile paste
1 (6.75-ounce) package thin rice sticks (rice-flour noodles)
2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted nuts (such as cashews, slivered almonds, or peanuts) *Optional*

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic to pan; cook 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon oil, ground chicken, and next 6 ingredients (through chili paste).
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain. Add noodles to bowl; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with nuts, if desired.

Nutrition Information
Serves 4 (abour 1 3/4 cups each)
Calories: 380
Fat: 8 g
Carbohydrate: 47 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 28 g


  1. Great tips-I will share for sure! Your chicken looks great too :)

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