You Can Still Eat Out Part 2: What to Order Where

*Sorry this is later than I said it would be; I compiled this list on Word, and I was having internet problems, so I was unable to transfer it and post it.*

As I mentioned before, eating right while eating out isn’t impossible. It just requires a little knowledge, maybe some research, and as always, a little self control.

Here are some of my go-to’s for my most frequented restaurants:

McDonald’s

Grilled chicken sandwich, no mayo. Their balsamic vinegar dressing is a good alternative if you have to have a condiment. It’s ok to leave the cheese on, and sometimes even the bacon 😉 The whole wheat bun they serve it on makes it doubly awesome.

Fruit N’ Yogurt Parfait. As a side of course. They are admittedly kinda high in sugar, but in my opinion that’s cancelled out by the calcium, fruit, and the fact that it’s still way better for you than French fries.

Cheeseburger. That’s right, sometimes you gotta just have a good old McD’s cheeseburger. That, and the calorie count is only 300. So that plus your yogurt makes for a reasonable lunch.

Apple Slices. I don’t order them, because I’m allergic. But you can order them. It doesn’t get much healthier than sliced fruit.

Salads. They offer an impressive variety of salads. I’m also allergic to lettuce, so I don’t order these either. But you can. Just remember to stick to grilled chicken instead of crispy, and be VERY careful with the dressings.

Since I’m me, and everyone has their own taste, I would recommend visiting their website to see what your options are. They even have an ‘Under 400 calories’ page.

Breakfast. Stick to English muffins instead of biscuits, ham instead of sausage, and yogurt instead of hash browns.

Burger King

I had to rewrite this one. I’ve never liked BK as a ‘healthy eating’ option. Their grilled chicken and buns are really dry, and they offer apples and salads, but no healthy side that I can eat. In my opinion, their burger and fries are better than McD’s, but if I’m trying to eat healthy, I skip BK. So when they came out with their Satisfries, I was really excited. Until I did some research.

I went to their website to find out the calorie and fat counts for both types of fries. Their website and commercials are all about how the new fries are 40% less fat and 30% less calories than regular fries. Naturally, since you’re at BK, you assume it’s less fat and cals than original BK fries. But when I looked at the numbers, I didn’t need a calculator to see that it was not a 40% difference. Wondering why the discrepancy, I went back to the home page. This time, I noticed the tell-tale asterisks next to the font. So, I read the fine print, which states: “*40% less fat than McDonald’s fries” & “**30% less calories than McDonald’s fries.”.

That just makes me mad. They are basically lying to the public. Sure, those little asterisks mean they can’t actually be sued, because they were ‘honest’, but really?? Why not just say that? Or why not just say ‘20% less fat and calories than BK fries.’

So there’s my rant. I don’t think restaurants should be allowed to legally mislead people. It’s wrong.

So anyway, if you can down their grilled chicken sandwich, and you aren’t allergic to raw fruits and veggies, go for it.

Otherwise, the Whopper Jr. isn’t too bad of an option. It’s got tomatoes and onions on it (which I’m not allergic to), so you have some veggies. Just remember to skip the mayo. Personally, I think Bk’s cheese is gross, so I don’t order it there, but again, that’s just my taste.

Taco Bell

This is my favorite fast food option. As long as you order your items without any cream based sauces, and stay away from the deep fried foods, you pretty much can’t go wrong.

These are their cream based sauces:

Creamy Jalapeno sauce

Baja sauce

Pepper Jack sauce

Volcano sauce

Avocado Ranch dressing

Sour cream

Nacho Cheese

Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean your food has to be boring.

Here are some toppings you can substitute, and they’re actually good for you:

Guacamole

Salsa

Pico de gallo

Cheddar cheese or three cheese blend

Red sauce

Tomatoes, onions, and lettuce

Their deep fried items are:

Potatos

Chips

Chalupas

Cinnamon Twists,

Empanadas

Edible taco salad bowls

What you can have instead:

Pintos & Cheese

A side of rice

Gorditas instead of chalupas

Subway

As everyone knows, Subway is another place you almost can’t go wrong.

My suggestions:

Ask for a whole grain bread (wheat or honey oat)

Load up on the veggies

Stay away from mayo and other cream based sauces and condiments

Oil and vinegar is ok; even good for you (they use olive oil)

Be careful with the chips. They offer baked chips and yogurt, which are better options.

Panda Express

I like Panda Express because there is no MSG, and they use fresh foods. Even better, they now offer brown rice. Their Wok Smart items are easy to spot, and have 250 calories or less per serving.

So if you can, I would stick to brown rice as a side, and choose Wok Smart entrees. Something with veggies is best of course 😉 But even I can’t resist their orange chicken once in a while.

At bigger, sit-down restaurants (Applebees, Olive Garden, IHOP, etc.), a lot of them now have a low cal or Weight Watchers menu. There are flavorful items with a reasonable fat and calorie count. Best of all, there is usually a side of fruit or steamed veggies.

If there is not an alternative menu, it can still be easy to eat right. Just remember to stay away from ‘crispy’ or fried items, stick to tomato based sauces instead of cream based sauces, and don’t forget your fruit or veggies.

So there are my restaurant secrets to eating right. If you have a smart phone, it’s easy to check nutrition facts on the quick.

Don’t forget to have desert once in a while!

You should know that I do not count calories (or fat) as a practice. I think it’s unnecessary and it over-complicates healthy eating. Especially since fat and calories aren’t what matter most in healthy eating. What matters most is making sure you get the vitamins, minerals, fats, protein, and carbs that your body needs. But it is important, especially when you’re losing weight, to know more or less how many calories and how much fat are in your food. Keeping it within a certain range each time you eat will help you stay in control and on track.

If there’s a restaurant you want specifics on, or you have a question about something, send me a message!

Skinny Girl Tips: You Can Still Eat Out!

During both of my weight loss rampages, I still ate at restaurants frequently. I even lost 20 pounds while working and eating at Taco Bell every day! Now, having a lot less mobility and a lot more pain, eating out is almost a necessity for us. For example, leaving church on Sunday, my husband and I took separate cars because he had to go straight to work. My hips and legs were hurting so bad I was holding back tears. But in the back seat I had two hungry kids (and a hungry me). There was no way I was going to be able to get around the kitchen to even make sandwiches. So we hit the Taco Bell drive thru instead, and watched a movie in the car while we ate.

Scenarios like that happen far too often at our house. Sometimes my husband is home with me, so he cooks, but being a cook at work, he cooks all day, and sometimes he just doesn’t want to. My daughter is also a big help, but at 8 years old, I don’t want her childhood to be about taking care of mom and little brother. So we eat out more than most people (or at least it seems that way). For a long time I felt guilty, because of the extra cost and the fact that it might not be as healthy as cooking at home, but with the help of a friend (Shout out to Mrs. C!) I decided that I wasn’t going to feel guilty anymore, I was just going to do what I needed to do to take care of my family, even when that meant doing things a different way than most.

I have never enjoyed cooking. It was kind of drilled in to me as a teen that I need to cook and learn to like it because when I get married and have kids, I will have to cook. So I tried, and I would get frustrated because it hurt, and it took so long, and then of course, you have to clean up afterward. So a couple hours of painful cooking and cleaning, for a meal that was gone in 20 minutes.  Ordering pizza just seems a lot less painful, and a lot more enjoyable. Luckily, my husband and kids don’t care that I’m not a 50’s housewife kinda girl. I’m kind of glad that I never liked cooking, because it would be one more thing that I wished I could do. Instead, I can see part of the blessing in my disability: I have a good excuse not to do something that I hate doing anyway.

So that was kind of a tangent, but this is a disability blog, so I feel like the disability aspect is important.

Anyway, it is totally possible to stay on track eating right at restaurants. Here are a few rules I follow:

  • No matter what you choose off the menu, STOP WHEN YOU’RE FULL. I know, it’s just. So. Good. But the leftovers will be good tomorrow when you heat them for lunch.
  • Have some fruits or veggies with your meal (fries don’t count. Anything deep fried doesn’t count). It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; it’s as simple as having tomato, onion, and lettuce on your burger, or salsa and guacamole with your quesadilla.
  • Look at the menus nutrition guide if available. Most fast food places have them. Even Starbucks has one. Sit-down restaurants will sometimes list calorie counts next to menu items. 500-700 calories = good. 1,000 calories or more = bad. (This is for a meal, if you are just having coffee and desert, the counts should be much lower)
  • Grilled or baked, good. Fried or crispy, bad. I don’t think I need to explain that one.
  • Don’t be afraid of cheese. Just don’t ask for extra. Cheese has nutritional value. Remember, we’re making lifestyle changes. Are you going to go the rest of your life without cheese? Didn’t think so.
  • Think outside the mayo jar. Mayonnaise is bad for you. No nutritional value, lots of fat and calories. Get creative with your condiments. Burgers are fine with just mustard and ketchup. Guacamole & BBQ sauce make a great western burger. Balsamic vinegar is awesome on a chicken sandwich.
  • Trade in your French fries. The day when you could only get fries with your burger or nacho cheese sauce for your chips is gone. Try a healthy side like yogurt or fruit instead of fries. Ask for salsa and guacamole instead of nacho cheese. Gotta get that fry fix? Steal just a few from your husband (or kid or friend)!
  • The same goes for sour cream and salad dressings. Ditch the sour cream for guacamole. Still creamy, and packed with nutritional value. Cream based salad dressings are bad. Choose balsamic vinegar (good for you!) or olive oil and lime (also good for you).
  • Starbucks? Ask for nonfat milk. What about sugar free? Artificial sweeteners are chemically altered. They are carcinogens (shown to increase risk of cancer). Also, there have been tons of studies that show that they don’t help weight loss. Stick to the real stuff in moderation.
  • Starbucks pastry? loaf. Their reduced fat pastries are better than the regular ones! Or pick something with nutrients, like pumpkin or banana nut.
  • Pizza can be good for you! Especially if you order a thin crust vegetarian special. If you have to have meat, Canadian bacon (or ham) is your best bet. It has a surprisingly low fat and calorie count. If you don’t like all the veggies, just add the ones that you do like. Love Hawaiian? Just ask for Canadian bacon and pineapple instead. Hawaiian has extra cheese. If you don’t like thin crust, don’t beat yourself up; order pan. Ask for whole wheat crust where available, and don’t forget to sprinkle those little crushed pepper packets! So good for you, and a metabolism booster!

Eating healthy at restaurants doesn’t require a degree in nutrition, just a combination of common sense and creativity. Later in the week I’ll post some of my favorite weight-loss-friendly menu items 🙂 Now go hit a drive thru!

“You know what you do?…You don’t feel bad about it.”

I met someone yesterday that I think may have changed my life with something she said, and she probably doesn’t even know it.

Yesterday my community group (like a bible study group) hosted a barbeque in the park. I almost didn’t go, but since we were doing it to reach out to the community and as an act of kindness, I decided to go. After we arrived, a family arrived that I hadn’t met before. They had seven(!) kids, and one of them was using a wheelchair.

I told her that I liked her chair, and that it looked a lot like mine. I wasn’t using my chair, even though I really needed to, because I haven’t figured out the art of baby chasing from a wheelchair (another post for another time).

The way she sat and her shorter stature made me wonder if she had Spina Bifida, so I asked her mom when she was off playing with the other kids. She does have Spina Bifida, which as I’ve mentioned, one of my best friends, Kate, has, so we got to talking.

One of her friends adopted a child that has CP, so she was asking some questions about it, because her friend is looking for information. It came up that one of the biggest challenges I face is cooking.

I can’t stand in the kitchen long enough to make a meal. I’ve tried bringing my wheelchair in to do it, but the counters and stove are right at eye-level from my chair. Also, it’s hard to get around in the tight quarters in a wheelchair. I’ve tried using a barstool, but that doesn’t work, because you have to move all around the kitchen to cook. What doesn’t help is that I don’t particularly like cooking, so it’s already not enjoyable.

I tend to force myself to try to cook to save money. Eating out is expensive, and my husband, who is a cook, doesn’t wasn’t to come home from work and cook some more. The money thing has never really bothered him, so he doesn’t mind eating out. But our family doesn’t have a lot of extra money, so I feel that I need to save wherever I can.

Also, he is from Mexico, where they don’t eat cereal or a sandwich as a meal, so while my daughter and I are fine with eating just that, he is not. And since in Mexico the women tend to spend a lot of their time cooking awesome food, I somehow feel like I’m not as good of a wife for not doing it.

I know this is ridiculous, especially since he has in no way ever made me feel that way, but like I’ve said, sometimes I’m pretty hard on myself.

Recently, I had an opportunity to save money and have some easy, home-made frozen meals on hand, but it meant I would have to cook 2 meals, and make enough food for about 40 people each meal.

I was reluctant to participate. I can barely cook dinner for my own family; why would I want to try doing it for 40 people? Twice? One of the girls offered to help me, but me cooking usually ends in tears, so I declined her help. Plus, I didn’t see much point in me sitting and directing her on what to do.

I liked the idea of saving money and having meals ready to heat. Being a health nut, I’d rather have home-cooked meals available than fast food anyway. My husband offered to help, so I decided to give it a shot. He did the shopping and came home, but within 10 minutes of cooking I was in tears. When I thought of how much I still needed to do, that brought on more tears. He was sweet and brought me some medicine and my wheelchair, and a coke and chocolate (that always calms me down). Somehow we finished it all, but I was in a lot of pain, and I will NOT be doing that again. Well, never say never; perhaps the trick is to not do it all in one day. It was a busy week, so it just worked out that way.

We were supposed to meet to deliver the meals and play some games that night. After cooking, I took a shower (another painful task) and got into my sweats. I really wasn’t feeling well, and I didn’t want to go. I changed my mind at the last minute, so we all went. I still was in a lot of pain, so we left early. While we were leaving, someone said “Thanks for toughing it out, I know it’s frustrating.”

That comment kind of got to me. ‘Frustrating’ is not the right word. I felt that ‘frustrating’ would imply that I simply did not want to do it because it is complicated. ‘Frustrating’ sounds like I simply chose not to be lazy. In cases like this, I wish pain was visible. I wish they could see it and know. Because I chose to dry my tears and have a smile on my face when we arrived.

I am in pain all the time. Sometimes severe, sometimes not, but all the time. But I generally keep it to myself. I don’t go around with a frown on my face, or complain about it all the time. That’s just my choice. The truth is that I have a lot to smile and be happy about, and I think those things are more important. But sometimes I think my smile makes my pain seem less real to those around me. Some tend to think I’m making excuses or being lazy, or that when my family helps me with something, they are babying me.

I have always done as much as I can for myself. I have always pushed myself to be as independent as I can be. But I do have limits, and I know what they are. I can’t do as much physically as other people. So what is frustrating is when other people question those limits. When they assume I am simply not trying.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind when people ask if I can do something. I would much rather they ask than assume that I cannot. What bothers me is when I tell them I can’t, but they want me to do it anyway. When they imply that if I would just put in some effort, I could do it. Kate had a similar incident on the same weekend, and I doubt we are alone in this.

Okay, enough with my rant and tangent. The person didn’t mean it that way, cooking is just a sensitive subject for me.

So, back to the park. I was telling my new friend about how cooking is a difficulty for me, and she was totally understanding why; a reaction that I usually don’t get. You know what she said? She said “You know what you do? You eat out, and don’t feel bad about it.”

Wow. So simple, so silly, but in my world, so profound. I’ve never had anyone really understand before. Nobody ever just give me permission to spend the extra money on something that’s considered a luxury because, well, that’s what I need to do.

So from now on, I’m going to do what I need to do. I’m going to eat out when I the pain is too much to stand, and I’m not going to feel bad about it. I’m going to listen to my body, and not force it to stand. I’m going to use my chair when I need to, baby and all. The more I force myself now, the less I’ll be able to use my legs later. So I’m going to take care of myself, and not let other people be my guide. I’m going to do my best, and let God do the rest.

So thank you new friend, for giving me permission. Something that I didn’t know I needed, but it has kind of set me free.

Sometimes when daddy's at work, we have cereal for dinner. But we like it that way.

Sometimes when daddy’s at work, we have cereal for dinner. But we like it that way.