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Posted on Jan 27, 2014 in Fashion, Food | 10 comments

Snapshots & Stitch Fixes

Happy Monday, friendos! I hope you all had wonderful weekends, the lot of you. Sean and I continued our 2-year anniversary celebration this past weekend, so it was pretty fab… though, as you can probably guess, involved a liiiiittle more foodstuffs than I probably should have indulged in. Thank goodness my weigh-ins are on Fridays now, eh? Hahaha.

Anyway, in the spirit of always being honest and transparent with you guys (plus the fact that I’m a weirdo and I love seeing what other people are eating), I figured I’d share a few snapshots of some of the things I’ve been eating recently. I promise it’s not all from dining out, too! I even have a couple of recipes to share with you guys this week, so there.

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Whipped up a glorious batch of my (and Katniss’s) favorite Lamb Stew with Dried Plums — although evidently the Polar Vortex made it so that there was no good lamb at the grocery store, so I used beef instead. Still delicious!

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Played a game of pantry roulette and ended up creating a hot steaming bowl of deliciousness that included farfalle pasta, bacon, peas, and amazing mushrooms with a super light cream sauce just to bind it together. I know you all probably read the word “cream” and your collective buttcheeks all tightened, but I promise that it was still a very diet-appropriate dish. Recipe to come soon!

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A iPhone pic collage of some of the amazingness that we experienced at Tuscarora Mill, where Sean took me for our anniversary dinnah. It’s in Leesburg and it is DEFINITELY worth the drive. You can peep my review on Yelp if you want deets about everything we ate (spoiler alert, it was a lot more than what is shown, hahaha), but that on the right there is a truffled goat cheese ravioli with mushrooms and pulled short ribs. I KNOW. I had never been so excited to eat leftovers the next day IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

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And, finally, last night my friend Reema came over and we whipped up a recipe from my homegirl Cassie’s AMAZING new cookbook: Beer & Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese. It really was just as delicious as it sounds, and even Sean got on board with the hidden butternut squash in the sauce. Mm-mmm, good. I’ll post more deets about the recipe (and Cassie’s cookbook!) soon!

So, lots of good eats (though in retrospect, I realize that there is a lot of pasta pictured. I promise I’ve been eating, like, vegetables and salads and stuff, too, hahahaha.) over the past few days, and even better ones to come!

So, in addition to all the deliciousness, time with friends, and anniversary celebration stuffs, I also had another fun addition to last week: I received my first Stitch Fix! Those of you who are already familiar with Stitch Fix are probably sick of hearing about it, and honestly, I kinda was too. But just before the holidays I had a chat with my friend Rachel about how much she was enjoying it, and I finally gave in and figured I’d give it a try. And when they hit it RIGHT OUTTA THE PARK with my very first box, I knew I had to share it with you all!

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So, for the uninitiated, Stich Fix is like a mail-order personal shopping service. You set up a style profile and you can do one-time or monthly recurring “Fixes” (same price either way, $20, which is applied to the cost of the clothing if you end up wanting to keep anything) and they send you five items that they think you’d like! I was skeptical as to how personalized it would really be, but they let you link to things like your Twitter, your Pinterest fashion board (if you have one), and I even put my blog address in the extra field at the bottom. And when I received my box, and it came with a personal note explaining all of the items, AND it also pointed to my love of polka dots which they would only have known if they really HAD checked out my Twitter and blog and whatnot, I knew this was pretty legit.

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Of course, it helped that the totally knocked it out of the park! I received a dress, two cardigans, a shirt, and an infinity scarf. Every single item is absolutely my style, and has details that I looooove. The dress has a light polka dot pattern and has that vintage-ish silhouette that I love, the blue cardi has polka dot detailing on the pockets and down the button closure area, the red cardigan has a light butterfly cut-out print and AWESOME buttons — each button is different! — and the infinity scarf is a bright, fun orange and THEY PUT A BIRD ON IT. Many birds, in fact.

The striped shirt was the only item where, before trying it on, I was kind of meh about, but once I did put it on, I LOVED it. It’s actually really flattering, incredibly soft, and super comfortable. Horizontal stripes! Who knew?!

I ended up feeling the most iffy about the red cardigan after trying everything on, just because from a distance there was nothing too special about it. But because Stitch Fix offers a 25% discount if you end up purchasing all five items, it was essentially free — the cardigan cost less than the amount I ended up saving from the discount! Plus, it ended up being way cute when styled with the dress instead of on its own — I ended up wearing the combo to Tuscarora Mill for our anniversary dinner!

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Speaking of pricing, you can set your price points for all the various categories of stuff they offer. So in that way, you can totally emphasize the clothing items that are most important to you. For example, for jewelry and accessories, which I don’t particularly care about, I put “As cheap as possible,” but for dresses and outerwear, I said I was comfortable with paying over $100 for those. Now, it just happened that every single item in my first box was between 28 and 48 dollars (yes, even the dress! I ended up paying just over $100 for all five items with the discount and the $20 styling fee I already paid going towards the total), so this was like a double-win in that arena.

ANYWAY. Enough talk about Stitch Fix and my latest obsession. I promise that this is not a paid promotion or a sponsored post or anything like that — they’re not paying me to say these things! (Though, as a disclaimer, the “Stitch Fix” hyperlink above is my referral link for the site.) I was just REALLY impressed with this service, especially because I was admittedly worried that I was too big to fit anything they offer. Which, now that I bring that up, is probably the only real problem with it, because the biggest size they offer on their style profile is 14… and, let’s be honest, that is deeeefinitely pushing it for me right now. So it bodes well for my continued weight loss efforts, but it was kind of a crapshoot whether I’d be able to fit everything they sent this time around. Thankfully it did all fit… but still. Broaden your sizing horizons and you will be utterly perfect, Stitch Fix!

OKAY. Sorry, sorry, enough chatter for now. Hope you’re all having utterly tolerable Mondays, and I’ll see you on the flip side!

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Posted on Jan 19, 2014 in Food | 8 comments

Choosing Wisely

So passes the first weekend since my bold declaration about getting back in the weight loss game. Well, kind of, since it’s sort of a long weekend and it’s sort of still going if you’re not working today… but I digress.

Sean and I spent a lot time with his family this weekend, since his brother is visiting. Sean spends A LOT of time with *my* family (we’re a needy bunch, what can I say?) so I’m more than happy to tip the scale just slightly back in his favor, haha. We’ve grabbed a few meals together and took a daytrip up to Baltimore to visit the Aquarium, and so it actually was a more active (and enriching) weekend than I’ve had in a while, haha!

In addition to that, Sean managed to surprise me for the second year in a row with tickets to see Ari Hest in concert. Our very first date consisted of dinner and surprise tickets to see Ari Hest (which I guess, technically, means this is the third year in a row that he’s pulled this off.) Of course, now the joke’s on him, since clearly I’m going to expect this to happen next year now. Which I’m pretty sure means he has to continue doing this every year for the rest of eternity.

Aaanyway, clearly between all the various things going on, it was a pretty boss weekend. But it also, by nature of what went on, included a fair amount of going out to eat. So this weekend was pretty much my first test in seeing how much self-control I could muster with regard to my rebooted healthy living philosophy.

As you may know if you’ve been following this blog from before, I’m pretty lax when it comes to eating out. I’ve never been a proponent of the idea that being on a diet means you have to prepare ALL your own meals, eat at home EVERY night, and reserve going out for TRULY special occasions — it’s just not realistic for some people, and, while I certainly do love to cook, it’s really not realistic for me either. I mean, aside from the fact that I work for Yelp.com and so it is literally my job to know what all the best, newest, and hottest restaurants are in town, when it comes down to it, I just really like going out to eat.

I like restaurants, I like trying new foods, new cuisines, new dishes, and I just generally like the whole restaurant experience. Whether it’s for date night, happy hour with coworkers, or just meeting up for a bite to eat with a pal, I just like eating out. And I managed to lose 60 pounds perfectly fine without sacrificing my enjoyment of restaurants the first time around, so I don’t see why I can’t maintain that this time around! After all, just like last time, it’s all about making the right choices when you’re staring down that menu — and I don’t just mean in the obvious way.

So, let’s say you’re meeting a friend for dinner at some new trendy Mediterranean resto you’ve been wanting to try for ages. But, you’re on a diet. Or you’re watching your weight. Or you’re trying to #eatclean or you’re just trying not to feed into the Standard American Diet stereotype. Whatever the reason, you bypass the dishes of flaming cheese and french fried whatever, and your trained, seasoned dieter’s eyes head straight to the “Entree Salad” section of the menu. But… you already had a salad for lunch. Or, maybe you just don’t like salad. Maybe you just wanted to try the grilled octopus dish that folks have been RAVING about, or you hear the lamb burger calling your name. What do you do?

In ages past, I would probably say that the “right” choice would be to muster all that willpower, ignore the siren song of the slightly “unhealthier” dishes, and go for whatever salad sounds best — dressing on the side plz. I mean, it’s definitely the easy choice, right? After all, calories in < calories out, right? Weight loss! Willpower! Health! But... let's really think about this. Because what happens if you are unsatisfied with your dish? Well, I don't know about you, specifically, of course, but I do know about me. And I know that when it comes to me, ignoring a craving doesn't really work. And passing up something decadent for something healthy, because I think it's the "right" choice, has a nasty habit of backfiring on me. 'Cause what's gonna happen later? I'm probably still going to go in search of something to satisfy that earlier craving, and it probably won't be in a good way. See, eating healthy while eating out is, in my opinion, all about balance. It's about striking a balance between what you "should" have -- what's healthy, what's nutritionally solid, what will leave you satiated and well-fueled -- and what you WANT. I'm not saying that you should have license to eat crap because you say that you want it, though. Of course I'm not. I'm saying that the art (or science, depending on how you look at it) of eating out while trying to lose weight is more complicated than calories in vs. calories out. Scratch that, the art of eating PERIOD while trying to lose weight is complicated. Or, at least it is when you have prior food issues, like I do. Here are some examples, just from this past weekend! Sean took me to an Italian restaurant after the concert on Saturday, and, faced with a bevy of creamy, delicious-sounding pastas, I ended up choosing the dish with the fewest amount of calories off of their "Lighter Side" menu:

It was a 5 oz filet with grilled vegetables, totaling (according to the menu) a whopping 365 calories. But aside from the fact that it’s a pretty sad-looking plate (incidentally, the veggies were undercooked, the steak tasted pretty good but looked weird, and generally, I would not recommend), even if it had been an excellent plate of food I’m not sure I would have been happy with it… because it wasn’t really what I wanted. It’s just what I thought I should eat.

But in contrast, let’s look at another example from this weekend:

After the Baltimore Aquarium, we dined at Phillip’s Seafood in Inner Harbor, and I opted for the crab cake salad. I knew I wanted a crabcake — I was in Baltimore for crying out loud! I knew that crabcakes are not inherently the healthiest of foods. But I wanted one and knew I would regret not having it later. So I got a single crabcake with a nice salad on the side instead of a crabcake sammy with fries or any number of the other delicious-sounding items on their menu. And while, yes, I’m sure that eating it with french fries and cole slaw would have been even more delicious, I can say that I had a satisfying meal that I don’t have to feel guilty about.

It probably doesn’t even need to be said, but the same goes for eating dessert. If you want a little something sweet, have it. Otherwise you (or at least I) am more likely to end up making bad choices — maybe even binging — later when the craving gets too strong. After my delicious crabcake salad lunch, our entire party split a slice of pie:

Just a couple of bites were enough to satisfy my sweet tooth completely without making me feel laden down, guilty, or regretful at all. And I also didn’t go scavenging for something sweet later on! Win-win.

I’ve been rambling on for a while now, and I’m not 100% sure if I’m still making my point well, so I’ll cut myself off now. I guess the tl;dr message in all of this is: eating out does NOT have to come down to either making a “good” choice and feeling unsatisfied, OR getting what you want and feeling guilty. It doesn’t have to be an either/or, mutually exclusive situation at all. You can make choices you feel good about AND end up leaving the table happy and satiated — you just might have to get a little creative.

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Posted on Jul 31, 2012 in Food | 8 comments

National Cheesecake Day

I don’t know if you heard, but yesterday was National Cheesecake Day.

I know.

To celebrate such a truly important and momentous day, Sean and I headed out to The Cheesecake Factory for dins. But really it was mostly for the half-price cheesecake, let’s be honest. While there I noticed that the restaurant, which has long been part of lists in “Eat This, Not That”-type books as blatant “NOT THAT” options, has made a few changes to their already far too expansive menu. (Seriously, that thing is like 30 pages long.)

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They have created what they’re calling their “Skinnylicious” menu. I will refrain from getting into why I hate the name with a burning passion too much (it boils down to the idea of sensationalism as well as promotion of the idealism of being “skinny”, in a nutshell), but I do appreciate the effort that they’re trying to make in emphasizing lower calorie options and whatnot.

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The menu is broken down into different categories — appetizers, entrees, etc. — and a general calorie count is listed at the top of each. So, all of the salads and specials on the menu clock in at under 590 calories, for example, and all the cocktails are under 120. This is similar to what it’s like at Seasons 52, where every item on the menu is under 500 calories (or something like that.)

I have to admit I was pretty disappointed to see that they didn’t have specific calorie or nutrition information listed for each dish. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but 590 calories is still potentially a lot for someone who is carefully counting. If you were to order a drink, an appetizer or starter salad, AND an entree, you could still easily end up with an almost 1,000 calorie meal despite picking from the “Skinnylicious” menu. And what if one of the items listed under “Specials” is really only 300 calories? That would probably change a lot of your choices, right?

Anyway, it’s probably pretty silly of me to be proclaiming my qualms about the “Skinnylicious” menu when I’m simultaneously boasting about the awesome cheesecake that I had last night. This was it, by the way:


Chocolate Tuxedo Cream Cheesecake

Om nom nom. To be fair, though, I only had a few bites before I boxed it up nicely. This is where I’ve learned to exercise moderation. Nobody says I can’t have my cheesecake and eat it too! I just now prefer to parse it out over a few days so it lessens the caloric blow to my waistline. Less guilt = more enjoyment.

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See? This picture was taken mere moments before boxing. Evidently I do have SOME restraint, because it was particularly delicious. (Perhaps even moreso because it was half-price?)

Are you a cheesecake person? I actually really don’t like plain cheesecake — too many bad experiences with dry ones, I think. But for as many issues as I may have with The Cheesecake Factory’s regular menu, I have to hand it to them: they certainly to a good slice o’ cake.

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Posted on May 6, 2011 in Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 18 comments

Weight Loss 101: Eating Out

Hello all! It’s been a little while since the last installment in my Weight Loss 101 series, so I thought I’d get back in the game with an addition of some more of my losin’ tips & tricks. On the docket for today: going out to eat.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I like to eat out. A lot. I fully recognize that food intake and calorie counting is easiest to do if you cook for yourself, but it isn’t always reasonable to assume that you’ll be able to do that for every meal. As I’ve had to find out the hard way, if you deprive yourself of things that you enjoy, you will only end up crashing and burning harder later. It is totally, 100% possible to still eat healthy and lose weight even if you like to go to restaurants (or in my case, if you like to go to restaurants a LOT, haha.)

You’re going to want to go out to eat. Even if you’re absolutely hellbent on cooking for yourself while you’re losing weight, what about when you move onto weight maintenance? Hopefully you can glean something from this post if you find yourself resisting wanting to spend time with friends or try out a new place for fear of what it may do to your weight loss.

General Tips

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1. Look up nutritional information online beforehand.

This is the number one, most important thing that you can do to make smart choices about what to order at a restaurant. Most restaurants (especially chain places) have all of their nutritional information available online nowadays. Granted, some places may be trying to hide it a little more than others, but it’s usually there. Do a quick online search or head straight to the restaurant’s website to check out your options. In today’s uber-technological world, you probably even have the technology to look up this kind of stuff on the go! So even if you are out with a group of friends and make a last-minute, game-time decision on where to eat, just borrow someone’s smart phone and get Googling.

If looking up the information online isn’t an easy solution for you (or if you’re just looking for another resource), I also highly recommend the “Eat This, Not That” books. The standard book pretty much all existing chain restaurants listed with the best and worst dishes to order, and the special “Restaurant Survival Guide” (I own both) includes even more info as well as some general guidelines on eating out.

2. Budget for dessert (or skip it altogether!)

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My sweet tooth only rears its ugly head every once in a while, so not having dessert when eating out isn’t something I have a fundamental problem with. However, I do know that a lot of people really go to restaurants almost solely for the decadent desserts. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! Just keep your cravings in mind, and plan out the rest of your dinner accordingly. Ask to take a look at the dessert menu along with the regular menu ahead of time (as they often offer it separately) so you can identify if there’s something that you just HAVE to have on there.

3. Ask for a takeaway box when your meal comes out, and put half of your portion in there.

I don’t really do this myself, but you’ve probably heard it as a trick for dealing with restaurant portions before, too. Restaurant portions are typically HUGE. They are far more than a person needs to eat in a single sitting, especially if you have any kind of appetizer, soup, salad, or dessert course involved as well. If you’re a devoted member of the Clean Plate Club, you may need to utilize this tip so you don’t end up overeating. Also, revoke that membership. It may be appropriate for kids who refuse to eat their broccoli, but you are under no obligation to finish everything on your plate every time you sit down to eat.

4. Drink water.

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Why drink your calories when you can eat them in the form of delicious food instead? Forgo the soda, juice drinks, fizzy cocktails, and whatnot and just drink refreshing, good-for-you water with your meal (with lemon or lime if you’re feeling adventurous!) Naturally, if you are out for happy hour or something and want a glass of wine or light beer then you should go for it, but just bear in mind that liquid calories are calories all the same, and they won’t fill you up.

Cuisine Guidelines

Naturally, you won’t always have the luxury of being able to look up restaurant information before you go. You may be visiting a small local place that barely even has a website, let alone one that has nutritional information posted on it. So you want to be equipped with some basic knowledge about good things to order that won’t affect your waistline too severely, even if you don’t know the specific caloric count. Here’s a breakdown of tips when dining on some of the cuisines I most often partake in:

American:

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American cuisine is usually full of robust, full salads and light fare. Stick to lean proteins like chicken or fish, and vegetable sides. Ask for dressing on the side. All pretty standard stuff in terms of menu navigation. You should have some good options here.

Recognizing the obesity epidemic that we are all facing, many American-style restaurants even include some sort of “Light Fare” section on their menu. And you should never feel awkward asking your server what some of the healthier choices on the menu are. It might surprise you — I would never have known that the Hong Kong Style Seabass at Coastal Flats was the lightest choice on the menu if I hadn’t asked once. And it was deeeelicious!

Asian:

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Asian food can be a really great choice for diet-friendly food, or a really bad choice. Sushi (my fave!!) is usually a pretty safe bet. For all you ‘phobes out there, just because it’s sushi doesn’t mean it has to be raw! You can get lots of delicious, fully-cooked fish rolls. The ratio of protein to carb is usually pretty good, and it’s extremely filling with all that rice. Ask if they offer brown rice, and enjoy other healthful, vegetable dishes like edamame and seaweed salad as well to round out your meal.

Pad Thai Shrimp

Thai food (another one of my absolute favorites) can be a little trickier. Ka Pow (so fun to say!), Cashew Chicken, or even Pad Thai Shrimp aren’t too bad (bearing in mind that you watch the amount of rice/noodles you actually end up consuming.) But beware of thick curries, which are almost always made with coconut milk and have a high saturated fat content (but are oh. so. good.) Steer clear of thick noodle dishes like Drunken Noodles and Pad See Ew, and be aware that many times the tofu in vegetarian dishes at Thai restaurants comes fried.

Mexican:

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Mmm, Mexicano. Mexican food can be surprisingly good for you… if you know what to do. First things first, always ditch the tortilla. Flour tortillas (and even corn ones!) add hundreds of unnecessary calories to your meal. Do it like Chipotle and eat your burrito bowl-style. Turn your fajitas into a salad. And just, you know, don’t get enchiladas. The same rules applies for the shell of your taco salad, as well as the big basket of chips that inevitably get parked in the middle of your table. I know it can be difficult, but practice restraint and you can reward yourself with an extra spoonful of guac.

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Speaking of which, guacamole > sour cream. Always. Guacamole may have a lot of calories, but it comes from healthy fats. Ditch the sour cream altogether, and be sparing with the cheese, too. Feel free to load up on the salsa though! I’m not how true this is, but I hear a lot about how spicy foods help slightly speed your metabolism so the hotter, the better! Fish tacos are UHHmazing and a much better alternative than beef.

Italian:

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Well, I have to say that this is a toughy. Italian food involves pizza, pastas, heavy meats, creamy sauces, and extreme deliciousness. My basic tips would be to always choose a tomato-based sauce over a cream-based sauce, forgo pasta dishes for lean proteins (hello mussels!) and vegetable sides, and recognize that Caesar salads, despite their misleading name, are actually not very good for you.

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And leave that bread basket alone! Almost all Italian places (and most nicer restaurants in general) will offer you a bread basket to gnaw on while you’re perusing the menu. Granted, I rarely ever actually follow this rule because I love bread, but then again I also have only lost like a total of 5 pounds in the past two months. So take from that what you will, huh?

Eating out is part of having a life. It happens. And it generally results in good times and (hopefully) great food! Hopefully some of the things I’ve listed here will help equip you to make healthy (or at least, healthier) choices when eating out. Diet may be a four letter word to some people, but it does not in any way mean you have to stop enjoying your life. I certainly know it’s not stopping me from enjoying mine!

What other cuisines are you looking for tips on how to dine healthily on? Do you have any tips that I’ve missed? I want to hear from you guys!

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