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Three Tip Tuesday – Skinny Menus?

 

I have a confession. Remember those Snackin’ Muffins from yesterday?

Well, I kind of sort of gave one to my dad, AKA the pickiest eater alive….and purposely failed to mention that bananas were among the ingredients.

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He didn’t ask what was in them, which shocked me, yet I knew he would find out once he read yesterday’s post.

My little plan worked – he loved the muffin but now claims (after reading the post of course) that he noticed the flavor of banana.

Is it wrong to trick people into eating things they wouldn’t normally eat?

I do this a lot with my son – I cook vegetables into dishes where he can’t notice or taste them.

I feel like quite the success when I complete this nutrition mission yet can’t help but wonder what I really achieved.

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See this bowl of chili? I made it for the little boy last week. While he was well aware that corn and kidney beans were involved, he doesn’t know about the squash, spinach or mashed veggie burger that also went into his mouth.

Sure, he got the nutrients but without knowing that he liked the textures and flavors of the vegetables, he doesn’t know that he can order or request those foods to be included in his meals again.

Something to think about? I think so.

You know what else is something to think about? Skinny Menus.

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The other night while dining at The Cheesecake Factory, after seeing the Skinnylicious Menu once again, I gave some thought to these “Skinny” menus which offer us a separate listing of low-calorie options and “lighter” fare.

As a side note, my son pushes the Skinnylicious Menu away based upon the word, Skinny. Instead of reading what is offered he assumes it is health food and not worthy. Guaranteed, many adults view this menu the same way he does.

The funny thing is, most of these so-called Skinny Menus are really the same as the regular menu – just smaller portions, bumped up vegetable servings and side salads served in place of mashed potatoes or french fries.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all knew how to order a decent and healthier meal from ANY MENU we encounter?

Rather than feel restaurant menu segregation, today I offer you a few standard ordering tips that can apply to any meal off of any menu at any restaurant.

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Here’s the thing: What I like to eat may be very different from what you like to eat. I refuse to offer you tips based upon what my choices would be, rather, I prefer to offer some ways to lighten up your favorite dishes and help you to realize you can still enjoy what you love, rather than find it forbidden and terrible for not making it to the Skinny Menu.

First things first:

THE BREAD BASKET. Is it worth eating?

If it features your favorite crusty bread or a fun little raisin roll, then have some.

If the bread is basic, bland and not worthy, skip it. Feel free to tell the waiter thanks but no thanks.

 DRESSING ON THE SIDE, PLEASE.

I take offense that my favorite BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad at The Cheesecake Factory doesn’t qualify for the Skinnylicious Menu.

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I mean, my salad of choice contains black beans, corn, tomato, lettuce, cucumber and avocado (and grilled chicken but I leave that off). The few onion strings on top cannot be the deciding factor.

What is the culprit? The BBQ Ranch dressing.

Creamy and thick dressings drowning your lettuce give a double bacon cheeseburger some serious competition in the stats department.

Food actually has flavor on its own, did you know that?

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If you can’t skip  the dressing altogether,  order it on the side and use your fork to dip. You will still get the flavor from the dressing while majorly lightening up the caloric content.

Even better – order a lighter dressing. A vinaigrette is almost always a better choice than a creamy dressing.

*Fat free dressings are usually available but super bland. In that case, go for the Oil and Vinegar or skip it all together. I am telling you, food itself has flavor!

ASK FOR A DOGGIE BAG

If you are eating in a restaurant that gives gigantic portions and want to watch your intake, ask for a TO-GO box BEFORE you start eating.

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Put some of your entrée in the box and forget about it. Most likely you will be full with what you leave on your plate and can then enjoy the leftovers the next day.

If fries are your thing, don’t deny yourself, just limit yourself in advance by removing a handful or two from the plate.

If you are still hungry, feel free to break open your doggie bag, BUT, did you know that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize you are even full?

Take a breather. You may think you are hungry but after 20 minutes, I bet you will realize you are satisfied.

ASK THE CHEF TO GO LIGHT

Sometimes what makes a dish banned from the Skinny Menu is the amount of cheese topping the chicken parmesan, the amount of oil ladened over the pasta or the amount cream sauce the dish is prepared with.

Simply requesting that your dish be made light on the cheese and/or drained from the extra cream and oil can be enough to lighten the load without sacrificing the flavor.

Sometimes, even when I order a salad, the amount of feta or other cheese on top is just too much. Kind of like the amount of cream cheese spread on a bagel in the bagel store.

In these situation, ask for it on the side.  Then you are free to spread and top as you wish, putting you completely in control of how much or how little goes into your dish.

DESSERT IS A MUST…IF IT IS WORTH IT

It would go against my religion for me to tell you to skip dessert.

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What I can tell you is, only order dessert if it is worth it. I mean, who wants a dinky cookie or a poor excuse for cake?

Just because a restaurant offers it, doesn’t mean you order it. Unless of course you are at The Cheesecake Factory.

Should you encounter a crummy dessert menu, leave and head for your nearest frozen yogurt shop.

Now, before I go get ready for my run, I leave you with my favorite ecard of the morning:

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I NEED TO KNOW:

Have you ever tricked anyone into eating something healthy?

Do you order from the Skinnylicious Menu?

Are you an on-the-side salad dressing orderer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • pickyrunner December 17, 2013, 6:40 am

    I can’t say I love the name of “skinny menus” nor do I think healthier meals should be separate from the rest of the food, but I would be lying if I said my eye didn’t jump to that portion of the menu whenever there is the option of one. I used to get made fun of for ordering off the kids menu since that portion is a normal adult size, usually. I almost always go for dessert though. Always. (assuming they have something I like, such as the Cheesecake factory’s gargantuan chocolate cake. Which I NEVER share.) I feel like I eat pretty healthy the rest of the time so going out for a meal isn’t going to kill me. I don’t love going out in the first place, so I might as well thoroughly enjoy myself!

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles December 17, 2013, 10:18 am

      Agree with you totally on everything you just said. And I also ordered from the kids menu for a long time when they would let me. As for dessert, well, we know how I feel about my favorite mounds of cake – which should never be shared.

  • Marina @ PBlover and Runner December 17, 2013, 7:00 am

    I infrequently go to cafe or restaurants. I am a student, and there are extra houses quite expensively 😉 I liked your councils because when I after all get to cafe, I choose, apparently, a menu half! And obligatory dessert 😉 Certainly, I pay attention to food caloric content (if it is specified) and I choose healthy options… But sometimes French fries – that is really necessary for me, and I eat a huge portion 😀

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles December 17, 2013, 10:16 am

      I am a total believer in ordering what makes you happy. I go for the onion rings over the fries!

  • Davida @The Healthy Maven December 17, 2013, 7:30 am

    Definitely an on-the-side dressing orderer. As for bread, it’s gotta be good for me to eat it! And I usually choose between bread or dessert and well dessert almost always wins!

    And yes, it would be awesome if ALL menus just featured healthy choices! Ah a girl can dream!

  • Amanda @ .running with spoons. December 17, 2013, 8:30 am

    Food actually has flavor on its own, did you know that? <— THIS! Omg so much this. I used to be the queen of junky processed foods, but ever since cleaning up and simplifying my diets, I've found that I can't even handle a lot of the more "flavourful" dishes out there, simply because the spices, sauces, and dressings completely overwhelm my tastebuds. This is actually an issue that I'm currently fighting about with my dad. I'm trying to get him to clean up his diet a bit, but it's hard when his taste buds have been numbed by too much salt, sugar, etc. I keep telling him to give it a few weeks and let his tongue recover, but he's having none of it. Sigh. I'll get there…

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles December 17, 2013, 10:15 am

      I deal with the same thing trying to retrain my father lol. Endless battle…I can’t handle the flavorful foods either – I notice the smallest hint of salt and never ever liked heavy sauces or cream-based entrees of any kind.

  • thekoshercavegirl December 17, 2013, 1:10 pm

    I never order off the Skinnylicious menu at Cheesecake, but that’s usually because I just customize one of their regular salads (no dressing, no corn, no croutons, no cheese…. i.e. NO ANYTHING FUN). Grrrr. Also– I love bananas. Chocolate chip banana bread? uh- YUM. But my fiancé abhors them, just like your dad. He claims that it’s a texture thing, not a taste thing, but he won’t eat banana bread or cake either so go figure.

  • jessielovestorun December 17, 2013, 11:36 pm

    Ha Ha Ha – I’v done the same trick to both my husband and father. Just like yours, they claim to of noticed the “special” ingredient once you tell them it’s in there. Guys have a mind of their own =)