To help you make smart dinner decisions without derailing your diet, registered dietitian Cynthia Sass offers some healthy suggestions for some of your favorite food choices.
Beef burrito or a beef taco salad?
Healthier choice: Beef burrito with soft corn tortilla, black beans and low fat cheese
- You're better off with the beef burrito (tortilla, meat, cheese, rice and beans), which has more protein, less than half the fat and fewer calories. It's not exactly light, though, so wrap some up to go!
- Taco tip: Soft corn tortillas can have nearly half the calories and fat as the flour kind and a bit more fiber, since corn is a whole grain.
- Choose black beans over refried or find out if the refried beans are vegetarian-friendly, meaning they're lard-free.
Two slices of 12-inch veggie pizza or pasta with marinara and Parmesan?
Healthier choice: Two slices of veggie pizza
- Most restaurants give you at least six times the recommended 1/2-cup serving size of pasta. On the other hand, a pizza slice is like automatic portion control. After each piece, you're forced to stop and think, "Am I still hungry?"
- Pasta sauces can be loaded with oil, cheese or sugar; pizza sauce is often simply crushed tomatoes, since mozzarella is the star ingredient (which explains pizza's relatively high saturated-fat content).
- Diet dangers decoded: Pass on scampi-style seafood pasta (hello, butter!), baked pastas and anything "fritto" (fried).
Chicken pad thai or chicken lo mein?
Healthier choice: Chicken lo mein
- Lo mein noodles are coated in a lower-calorie sauce and usually stir fried with more veggies in less oil, so you could save up to 450 calories and 12 grams of fat.
- The rule for Asian takeout should be one entrée for two people. A container of rice holds about 2 cups — three servings too many (even if it's brown rice). Eat a quarter of what's in the box.
- Add a cup of soup (like egg drop, wonton or tom yum) to your order. It will fill you up so you eat less of those noodles.
Nachos with chicken or buffalo wings with celery and blue cheese dressing?
Healthier choice: Buffalo wings with celery and blue cheese dressing
- While these sauce-drenched nibbles aren't rabbit food by any means, eating a whole order of wings is a better choice than a platter of nachos, which can weigh in at 1,340 calories and 27 grams of saturated fat — or more!
- Eight wings with blue cheese and celery are about 850 calories and 14 grams of saturated fat. You're less likely to blow through them, since gnawing even one wing takes time and effort. The low-cal celery sticks also help fill you up, though dip sparingly into the fatty blue cheese dressing.
- Bonus: Looking at the bones left on your plate may make you eat less, research suggests.
Vegetable quiche with a side salad or Cobb salad with dressing?
Healthier choice: Vegetable quiche
- The Cobb salad is loaded with toppings and has many fats in it, including from the bacon, cheese, avocado, cheese and creamy dressing. You are basically eating the equivalent of a double whopper with cheese!
- Quiche does have that butter crust and is sometimes made with whole milk or cream, in addition to the eggs.
- With its petite serving size, one slice only packs about half the fat and calories of a large Cobb salad, and less sodium. The veggies and side salad give you almost the same amount of fiber.
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