Pho

Sweet Heat

Did you ever play the computer game The Sims? I loved it back in the day. If you never played it, it was kind of like creating your own soap opera. And your “characters” in the game had needs that had to be met: sleep, eat, bathroom, social, etc. There was a bar at the bottom of the screen for each need and if it got too low, the characters would tell you. They’d be angry and wave their fists at the sky. If they were tired, a bed would show above their head and if you ignored it long enough, they’d eventually pass out on the floor wherever they were standing, too exhausted to move to the bed.

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I bring this up because I kind of felt that way lately. My calender for March has been overwhelmingly crowded. Acupuncture, work, gym, plans with friends, trying to fit in downtime for myself, relationship time with Michael, chores, and volunteering. I was starting to feel like The Sims. I wanted to wave my angry fist at the sky and demand some down time! I even contemplated canceling EVERYTHING in my schedule for a few weeks.

Apparently what I needed was time with friends. Thursday after work my cousin Anna and I went out for Pho for dinner at Pho Hung. I love Pho! I ate way too much and still had enough leftovers for 2 lunches.

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After dinner, Anna and I went to N.W.I.P.A for a cider tasting. The tasting was free and I was surprised at how much I liked ciders. It was brewed by 2 Towns Ciderhouse, a brewery from Corvallis, Oregon. I loved their pear cider. It was crisp and dry, with just a little bit of sweetness. I ended up buying a bottle to take home.

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The beer bar had mostly IPAs, which is my favorite beer, and they had my favorite brewery on tap: Boneyard. I got a small glass of their Double IPA and Anna got her favorite beer, Burnside Brewing Sweet Heat. I finally got to try Sweet Heat and I liked it quite a bit. It’s a wheat ale made with apricots and Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Peppers. It was smoky and spicy but not in an unpleasant way.

I felt like I had recharged my battery after that fun evening out. We lounged at the bar for a few hours talking and I just felt a million times better.

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Friday evening one of my oldest and best friends, Rachel, came down to Portland for a mini girl’s weekend. We went out to dinner (to The Slide Inn, which was by far the absolute worst meal I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant and I’m absolutely shocked it’s still open. The food was vile, tasted bad, and I’m pretty sure it gave me food poisoning…) and Michael joined us. After the horrid meal we wanted to salvage the night so the three of us went to Pix Patisserie, just up the street from the restaurant. Their desserts are absolutely decadent and amazing and their new location on Burnside is great! The atmosphere was cool, it was a fun vibe, there was tons of space and it was packed.

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Michael and I split the creme brulee. They had about 3 or 4 items that were gluten free and the creme brulee is one. It was magnificent, creamy, crunchy, sweet, perfect. I can’t remember the last time I had creme brulee. After that Michael headed home and Rachel and I went out to a quiet little bar to catch up.

Saturday morning I got up early enough to make it to the very early body pump class. Rachel had about an hour or so of work to do so it was perfect. I got my workout done, she made some money, and then we had the rest of the day together.

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We went to The Blue Pig for brunch and seemed as though the universe was making up for the horrible dinner the night before. First, it was a gorgeous sunny day in Portland. Second, I was able to get a primo parking spot right in front of the restaurant on Hawthorne–the most popular and crowded area of Portland–and that is unheard of. Lastly, there was NO LINE. We got a table immediately and about twenty minutes later the crowds arrived. We lucked out and got in just between the two rushes. It was crazy!

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The Blue Pig’s new location on Hawthorne is great! Huge, fun, comfortable, trendy and I loved the artwork. I ordered breakfast off the kid’s menu because the regular sized portions were huge. I got French Toast, 1 fried egg and 1 sausage link. And lots and lots of coffee.

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I need to start ordering off the kid’s menu more often. It’s so much more my speed. After a month of no bread and missing French toast, I was happy to get my craving satisfied. Rachel got the pork belly hash with a humongous biscuit. Check it out:

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Our leisurely brunch was really chill and eventually we made our way to Laurelhurst Park to take advantage of the sun and 60+ degree day. We walked around and talked and then parked our butts on a bench by the lake and stayed there for a few hours. The vitamin D was happily soaked up.

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I needed that sunshine. It’s been gone far too long. Eventually Rachel and I found our way to a nearby coffeeshop that had outdoor seating in the sunshine. It was the first time I’d been to the Flying Cat Coffeeshop and it was great! The owner was a sweetie and super friendly and the place was somewhere I’d like to hang out–very welcoming. I had a hibiscus iced tea as we sat outside in the sun.

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The rest of the day was spent outside playing Sequence, enjoying some downtime and just catching up. It had been way too long since Rachel and I got to hang out. I needed my girl’s weekend badly. Unfortunately, I spent the rest of the weekend feeling sick. Not sure if it’s food poisoning or flu or something else…it certainly was not fun or how I would have liked to spend the rest of my weekend, but I’m so glad I got to see Rachel!

QUESTION: Can you relate to this post? And did you ever play The Sims?

What to Order When Out

Ordering out is a landmine. Sometimes what you think is the healthy choice, turns out to be not-so-healthy. Remember that time I found out that salads were most definitely not the healthiest option to order? That “Safe” salad I was about to order had more than 1000 calories in it! What?!?! A salad is lettuce and veggies! Astounding.

So what happens when you get a craving and want to go to a restaurant? I usually crave sushi or Mexican food. Those are my go-to cuisines. Sushi is usually a safe bet because it’s healthy and I only need a little bit of it before I feel full. Mexican food is a little trickier.

Below I have some tips and suggestions on what to avoid, or consider, the next time you’re in a restaurant.

Chinese, Thai Food and Vietnamese Food

Chinese food is something I don’t eat often (maybe once a year if that) now that I know what a calorie is! Seeing the reality of the sauce-slathered food options and how many calories I was eating in them really turned me off.

I recently went out to dinner with my friend Robyn at an Asian cafe. They had Indian food, Japanese, Chinese and Thai options. One of the dishes we ordered was NOT a healthy choice–it was slathered with peanut sauce. But the “lightened up” dumplings and the hot and spicy broth I ordered were definitely healthy options.

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So what can you order at a Chinese food restaurant? Your best best is steamed veggies that aren’t drowning in rich sauce. Steamed veggies with rice are healthy and relatively low in calories. You can ask them to give you some sauce on the side and dip the veggies into it –just don’t go overboard.

Learn to eat with chopsticks—they help you eat less and savor your food.

Soup is an easy choice. Most of the soups I’ve had at Chinese restaurants are broth-based and not cream-based. It’s delicious and fills you up, too. I love the hot and spicy soups they have! (Now I’m craving Won Ton Soup.)

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Stir-fry vegetables are good. And don’t think you’re just going to eat veggies, you can get noodles or brown rice, too, just be mindful of serving sizes. Maybe have a little bit and save the rest for leftovers.

Seafood. Shrimp is super low in calories. I think it’s 9 pieces of shrimp for 100 calories. As long as it isn’t deep fried, it’s a good choice.

PHO. It’s vegetarian friendly, or you can get meat (of various types) in the soup. The serving sizes are usually pretty big and I’ve never been able to eat it all at once. The leftovers are just as good, too.

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Avoid: anything fried, “crispy”, “battered” or “smothered” in sauce. Fried rice is tasty but so high in calories and carbs. While sweet and sour sauce is delectable, it’s also packed with sugar and calories. Ditch the deep-fried spring rolls, go with steamed dim sum.

Japanese Food and Sushi

Japanese food is kind of a general term and most of the Japanese food I eat is sushi. Most of my recommendations are sushi. But a lot of the same rules for Chinese food apply here–avoid sauces, get steamed veggies, etc.

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Sashimi (no rice) and nigiri are good because it’ s less rice than the rolls and a big hunk of fish on top. Vegetable rolls are usually low in calories.

Your best bet: Edamame, cucumber salad, tossed salads, miso soup and seaweed salad.

Avoid: anything fried, “tempura,” pot stickers, anything with cream cheese in it (sadly, the Philly roll is my favorite!).

Mexican Food

Mexican food is my favorite. Slathered with sour cream, cheese, spicy, crunchy, guacamole-covered goodness. Unfortunately, the diet can go so awry at a Mexican restaurant. You don’t have to deprive yourself, though, there are better options.

Choose bean burritos instead of cheese/beef ones. Ask for soft tacos—the crispy ones are deep fried (which didn’t occur to me until recently–duh!).

Enjoy tons of salsa—it’s mineral-rich and good for you, without the calories. Sour cream, cheese topping and large helpings of guacamole are all high in calories, which is why I love them I guess.

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My favorite things to order are fish tacos. As long as they aren’t fried and dripping in sauces, they’re relatively low in calories.

Dishes with black beans in them will fill you up with the fiber. While black beans are very nutritious, refried beans are often cooked with fat.

Try a taco salad–as long as it’s not in a fried taco shell. Gazpacho soup, pozole soup or black bean soup is a good choice too.

Fajitas. Meat, vegetables, minimal “extras” = perfect Mexican dish while watching your waistline.

Avoid: The chip basket!!! So many empty (and tasty) calories. The crunchy taco shells are fried, so try soft tortillas instead. Other calorie-bombs are quesadillas and nachos.

Italian Food

I don’t eat a lot of Italian food because of the calories involved. When I do go I want the super amazing ravioli stuff with cheese and oozing in sauce, or thick lasagna with tons of cheese. None of the options *I* want are going to do me any favors on the scale. Thus, I avoid it. I know that Italian food is one of people’s favorites cuisines, so it’s not ideal for me to say “just skip it!”

I seem to like soup, right? Well minestrone is a great one! Super low in calories. Seafood is low in calories unless it’s fried or breaded. Same with chicken.

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Marinara sauce isn’t too bad.  It’s definitely a better option than Alfredo. Pick a pasta that is tossed with veggies, garlic and olive oil to save some calories.

I’ve seen healthier menu options on menus that include seafood (shrimp and pasta is good), steamed vegetables included, and a green salad is always a good start to a meal.

Avoid: the bread basket, creamy white sauces, anything fried (like mozzarella sticks).

Your Turn

What are your tips and tricks for eating out? Do you have a few “safe” things you order at restaurants?