Some days I really hate the thought of making dinner, which being a cookbook author is about as close to blasphemy as possible.
Yes, some nights when I didn’t take the time to plan ahead, I take one look in my fridge and go into stun mode. That’s when I start fantasizing about getting taken out to dinner. And I’m not talking about pizza and wings.
I want to go somewhere that the food will taste great and won’t send my regular healthy eating plans into calorie and sodium stratosphere.
In my neighbourhood that usually means the Bistro around the corner where they serve tapas or our local pasta place where the pasta and the sauces are all homemade and they have great mussels.
You can eat out occasionally, at most places without guilt as long as you follow some easy guidelines.
Think veggies, yes, I know I talk on and on about vegetables, but there is a good reason, they’re superstars in the nutrition department and as far as I’m concerned in the flavour department as well.
I usually start with a salad and I don’t mean a Caesar. Pick one that has oil and vinegar dressing and ask for it on the side. I like to pick spinach, Greek – ask for half of the feta, or a garden salad. I do add some of the dressing, the operative word being some. It’s called dressing for a reason, it’s supposed to dress the salad not drown it.
For a main course I usually order a protein with some vegetables hold the side of rice, pasta or potato, okay, give me more veggies. I’m not anti-rice, pasta, or potatoes but restaurant carbs are usually so high in fat and salt that I just skip them altogether. I’ll have them at home where I can cook them up the way I love them – whole grain and when it comes to potatoes with the peel on. This all changes when I go to that great local pasta restaurant – then give me the homemade pasta, please, it qualifies as a treat for me.
In the protein family, being a West Coaster, I usually choose seafood. I was raised on wild salmon, halibut, sole, trout, mussels, and oysters. If it made its home in the ocean, we ate it. You don’t have to wait till you’re coastal; if it’s fresh ask for the seafood menu.
And check to see if the list included sustainable fish. For more info check out www.oceanwise.ca for a list of sustainable fish as well as the restaurants across Canada that serve it.
Poultry is always a great choice, depending how they cooked it. Deep fried and in a bucket? Take a pass. Grilled with fresh herbs, roasted, or sautéed with fresh veggies, order me some.
Beef? Splurge and order a good cut. But remember size counts and if it’s bigger than a deck of cards bring the rest home for tomorrow.
Most restaurant meals use a lot of salt, if you’re watching your sodium levels ask them to prepare your food without salt, more often than not they’ll comply.
And now we come to dessert. Yikes! The killer! I always look at the dessert menu. My rule is if I can make it at home forget about it. If it looks amazing and the place is famous for it, I order one and forks for sharing. The French say that after the third bite it doesn’t really have the same impact so, have 3 tiny morsels and savour.
These are my rules for a regular dinner out. If anyone asks to take you out to a high end the “someone pinch me I can’t believe I’m here” kind of restaurant – throw all rules out the window, indulge and tomorrow drink lots of water, workout an extra hour, maybe two and just smile all the way through dinner.