Healthy Cook: Three steps to make positive strides toward portion control

HERE WE GO AGAIN. It’s that time of year when we look at our waistlines with disbelief — like the creeping credit card bill — “Where did all that come from?” It’s a case of, “If you don’t eat it, it doesn’t end up around your middle.”

Sometimes it’s better to waste a little than waist a lot. Here are a few ways to enjoy your food without wearing it. You can’t get much cheaper than water as a weight-loss tool.

STEP ONE: Have a glass of water before meals.

If plain water doesn’t do it for you, add a splash of lemon or lime. The human stomach is an elastic bag that can hold, some sources say, about four liters, a little more than a gallon. One glass of water doesn’t seem like much but it takes up space and makes us feel fuller faster.
Unsweetened iced tea does the same thing.

STEP TWO: When eating out, ask for a to-go box at the beginning of a meal.

Look at the food on your plate and decide how much is enough for now and what you should take home. The crawfish etouffee at Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill in Lakeland is a great example of this. The platter comes piled with rice and crawfish in a delicious sauce. There is easily enough for two meals. Divide the portion before you start. If you eat first, you will probably enjoy more than half and, oh, what the heck, finish it. You didn’t do yourself any favors. And two meals for one price make both meals a bargain. Warm bread and herbed butter comes with Harry’s meals.

Some Italian restaurants offer oil and herbs with warm bread. When was the last time you tasted bread? Just bread. No butter. No oil. Try it.

The garden salad that starts many restaurant meals has few calories. Go ahead, eat it all before you start. The calories are in the dressing. It sounds funny, but you can fool your salad palate. Ask for dressing on the side and dip your fork into the dressing before spearing the greens or vegetables. You taste the tiny amount of dressing first and don’t need to pour it all on. Plus, if you are taking some of the salad home, it won’t get as soggy without the dressing.

Fancy salads that make a meal have all sorts of toppings and often don’t need any dressing at all. Ask for the cheese, nuts, and croutons on the side.

Some restaurants offer two sizes of entrees — a larger piece of fish, a heavier steak or two pork chops instead of one. Get the larger size and you have tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. If the small fish is 6 ounces you would eat it all. If the larger one is 10 ounces you can have 5 ounces per meal.

Bargain is my middle name. Actually, it’s Trent, but for today I changed it. Don’t forget sharing entrees as a great way to cut calories in half.

STEP THREE: When eating in, cut the huge serving size in half, or swap this for that.

At home, consider that huge plate of pasta that makes you waddle away from the table feeling uncomfortable. Think of how good half of it will be warmed for lunch the next day. And when you choose the sauce, go for plain tomato or pomodoro (Italian for tomato.)

Did you ever look at a recipe for Alfredo sauce? The basic sauce has three ingredients: butter, cream, and Parmesan cheese. Fat, fat and more fat. No wonder it tastes so good.

To pep up leftover pasta, chop a couple of gutsy black olives and mix them into the sauce before heating. Wimpy canned olives won’t do. A jar will last for ages in the fridge. Smack the olives with the side of a knife and the pits almost pop out on their own.

Do you like your fish fried or broiled? Broil it. You taste the fish, not the breading or batter that hold oil like a sponge. There are differences in fish that are hard to determine when fried. Broiled is better the second day, too.

Tartar sauce is mayonnaise based with a few flavors added for interest. You don’t need it. A little lemon juice or vinegar puts life in the pompano or porgy without adding calories.

The fish for fish and chips needs to be fried to be traditional. Try a baked potato instead of chips to balance things out. Baked potatoes are a calorie blessing at home, but only if you ditch the sour cream, cheese, and butter. Dollop on non-fat Greek yogurt and plenty of pepper. If you like crisp potato skin, bake them soon after washing. For soft skin, rub on a tiny bit of oil. Cube leftovers and fold them into omelets the next day.

Of course, all this is a moot point if Santa loaned you his big black belt with the brass buckle. Otherwise, get to stepping and make strides for portion control.


article by CFHN Food Editor TRENT ROWE

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