By Mary Ellen Psaltis
Is getting healthier one of your goals for 2014? I hope so. The small choices you make every day add up quickly – especially when it comes to food. The next time you order a grande caramel macchiato, savor every sip. Those sweet 240 calories won’t necessarily bust your monthly budget, but daily doses can make your pants way too tight.
For optimum health, you could pack your lunch every day and eat all your dinners at home, but that’s unlikely to happen. Eating out for me is a welcome change of pace. I pick foods I don’t often (or ever) make at home. It’s still important that there is good nutrition in there somewhere. And let’s not forget that someone else shopped, chopped, and cleaned up! That speaks to my mental health.
When eating out (or anywhere for that matter) what constitutes desired health or sound nutrition? That’s a good question. Is it low fat? Reduced sugar? Low calorie? Slow metabolizing carbs? Too often words bamboozle us. Just because you are eating low-fat ice cream made with artificial sweeteners (think low sugar) doesn’t make it healthy.
Here’s my definition for optimum food choices:
- The food came from a plant – the kind that grows in the ground rather than the ones where people work.
- The food is as close to its natural state as possible. That means apple slices instead of apple juice.
- If it’s highly processed and fried up – probably not so good.
Now where do I go to find qualifying entrees?
I rely on Thai and Indian food. Colorful vegetables are found in many dishes; tofu can be selected over beef or chicken, and usually your meal is cooked to order – so it hasn’t been sitting around under a heat lamp.
Bangkok Thai makes my favorite peanut sauce with spring rolls that are the perfect foil for dipping. Spring rolls are translucent sheets of rice paper wrapped tightly around carrots, lettuce, tofu, sweet cilantro, and light-as-air noodles. Your stomach will be happy with the volume. I love the chewy ends and the nutty sauce. Two rolls (four pieces) are great for sharing; I usually order a vegetable dish as well. The curry is a pile of beans, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, bamboo shoots, peppers and spiced to your tongue’s heat desires. Another dish has a variety of vegetables with a peanut sauce. You can always opt for the more familiar stir-fry.
Manager Koty Liao makes every visit pleasant and personal. Ready with a smile, she can help you navigate the menu if you are unfamiliar with Thai. For me, it’s like eating at a friend’s house. Owner Jason Guan is doing the cooking. You are not limited to vegetables there, though that’s my inclination. There are multiple beef, chicken and shrimp dishes, soups, noodles and more.
For a very casual, help-yourself meal that makes choosing good-for-you simple, make your way to the Olympia Food Co-Op off Pacific Avenue. Fill up on soup, salad and sandwiches. The long, rectangular salad bar features one side with familiar ingredients like chopped celery, sliced olives, peas, cottage cheese and even eggs. The opposite side has freshly made salads – talented creations with quinoa, black beans, peppers, spices, kamut berries, dried fruit and so much more.
I can trust that the salads are made with good quality ingredients – if it’s there, I’m willing to try it, healthfulness insured. Two or more soups are at the far end. There is a separate cooler with sandwiches and wraps. It’s all about mixing and matching. There are containers for you to pack up your salad and soup, but you can bring your own. Be sure to weigh them ahead of filling them. The weight will be deducted at the cash register.
A couple more healthy hints:
- For a more elegant yet comfortable dining experience, visit the Lemon Grass at Hawks Prairie. You’ll be treated to excellent Thai food and you can order a cocktail. Yes, I said cocktails. I won’t argue having a glass of wine or lemon drop from time to time.
- When you are out and about and realize you need a pick-me-up and maybe not a full meal, remember that Zoe Juice Bar is now open. One glass packs a punch of fruits and/or vegetables.
Depending on what you choose, eating out does not have to be hazardous to your health goals. Look for fresh, tasty, and whole with a rainbow of colors. I believe Koty Liao, who lives by this strategy, “Watch what you eat – weigh what you want.” Here’s to your best health ever!
Eat Well – Be Well