All Entries For healthy meals

10 Restaurant Meals Get a Healthy Makeover

One of the more difficult parts of sticking to a healthy eating plan is knowing that many old favorites and fast-food standbys can no longer be on the menu. Outrageous calorie counts, sodium levels that are through the roof and processed ingredients you can’t even pronounce put a lot of ooey, gooey, sugary and sweet foods on the no-no list. But you’re in luck, because with a few modifications and healthy substitutions, many favorite restaurant meals and sweet treats can easily find their way into your new meal plan.
Whether it’s a Chinese takeout favorite that you can’t live without or a seemingly healthy smoothie that really isn't, these 10 copycat recipes for some restaurant favorites cut the fat, but none of the flavor or fun. Indulge away!

Iced Coffee It will take more time to find and put on slippers to drive to your local café than it will to create this sweet, mildly chocolatey coffee drink. 

Sausage McMuffin with Egg Trim 26 grams of fat in your breakfast sandwich with this classic drive-thru re-do.

Chicken Tacos Skip the assembly line counter and the guac-is-extra guacamole and make these better-for-you spicy tacos at home instead. The homemade jalapeno-avocado based salsa will have your taste buds singing.

Sesame Chicken Erase two-thirds of the restaurant version’s calories and milligrams of sodium in this slimmed-down version of a Chinese takeout favorite.

Carolina Chicken Salad With more than 1,100 calories and a whopping 68 grams of fat, it’s hard to take the original restaurant salad seriously. This makeover offers the same citrusy flavor for a much more reasonable 205 calories and 9 grams of fat.

Southwestern Eggrolls Eliminate more than half the calories found in this popular appetizer by skipping the deep fryer. The new recipe packs in a colorful array of veggies, too.

Chicken Carbonara Date night just got more delicious with this healthy spin on an Italian favorite. With just 363 calories and 6 grams of fat per serving, this dish pulverizes the restaurant original, which clocks in with a whopping 1,570 calories and 113 grams of fat.

Lettuce Wraps Swapping the chicken in these restaurant favorite wraps for turkey is just one of the changes that will save you roughly 200 calories per serving.

Berry Smoothie Smoothies are guilty of masquerading as a health food, but most are packed with sugary juices or ice cream. Skip the fro-yo and use a frozen banana to create the same creamy texture right in your blender.

Frosty® Grab the kid’s size chocolate treat at the drive-thru and you’ll be tracking 200 empty calories, but make this version at home and you’ll indulge your sweet tooth for just 66 calories.
Posted 11/11/2015  12:00:00 AM By: Alicia Capetillo : 1 comments   14,353 views
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The Healthiest Choices at Panera Bread

These days, it can be really tough to find a bite to eat on the go that won't break the calorie bank. Fast food chains are convenient, but most options are loaded down with excess calories, fat and sodium. Panera Bread has emerged in recent years as a healthier choice in a sea of burger joints. Although some of its menu items aren't the greatest (720 calories for a bowl of clam chowder, anyone?), we've scoured the menu to find some decent choices the next time you find yourself in a pinch for food—right now.

Panera has stepped up their nutritional game recently with their Power Menu, a selection of high-protein, low-carb entrees with some seriously impressive nutritional stats. We've included some of them in our top six favorite healthy Panera entrees below, followed by 10 more of our honorable mentions. (Note that salads do not include dressing nutritional information.) 
Posted 2/23/2014  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 216 comments   271,877 views
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Join the 30-Day 'Fit Food' Challenge!

Now is the perfect time to kick off a brand new challenge to help you get on your way to your healthiest, fittest self yet: 30 Days of Fit Food. It's a great way to kick the season and head into the holidays (just around the corner!) feeling your best.
Posted 9/26/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 29 comments   131,984 views
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SparkPeople's Mix and Match Meal Planner: Meal Planning Made Easy!

Are there times that you feel like you're stuck in a rut with your current meal plan or that you just don't know what to make for certain meals? If so, then the Mix and Match Meal Planner may be just what you are looking for!

The Mix and Match Meal Planner is a tool that is very easy to use and can help you plan out healthy meals that meet your nutrition goals. Planning out your meals ahead of time can help you stay on track a lot easier than if you wait last minute to decide what you might eat. If you are anything like me and you don't like to cook and/or would like to find some quick and simple meals, then the Mix and Match Meal Planner may be just the thing to help you get on track (and stay on track) with eating healthier meals overall. This interactive feature allows you to choose the food items that you like, but it will also make sure you pick the right items to make it a complete meal that is healthy and tasty.

With all the different options available in the Mix and Match Meal Planner, there are numerous meals that you can create to give your meals quite the variety. You can not only save time with your meal planning, but you can also say goodbye to boring meals!

Posted 5/24/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Denise Tausig : 20 comments   16,917 views
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What is Miso Paste?

Though it's just been available for a few years here, miso paste has been around for centuries. Though the first iteration, made in China almost two millennia ago, was made from fish bones, it was used much in the same way it is today. The ingredients have changed (thank goodness!) and miso today is made from fermented rice, barley, soy beans and even my favorite, buckwheat.  Though its primary flavor is salty, miso can be very subtle or complex with fruity, salty, and umami notes.  The darker the miso the more flavor and depth it will add to the dish. 
Miso, like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, contains probiotics, which aid digestion by creating microbial balance in the GI tract. Those delicate probiotics lose their effectiveness if miso is boiled. 
Posted 5/14/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 12 comments   18,563 views
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Poll: Should States Ban Junk Food at Schools?

Earlier this year, Coach Tanya blogged about the changes being made to school lunches, but five years ago, the state of California had already started to cut down on junk food in school cafeterias. With the changes that were made in California high schools, there have been some interesting findings that may help reduce childhood obesity. The law in California put limits on the amount of fat, sugar and calories that are found in their cafeteria’s, along with the foods and snacks that are available on school grounds, such as vending machines.
Posted 5/10/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Denise Tausig : 73 comments   20,274 views
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The Not-So-Extreme School Lunch Makeover

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined celebrity chef Rachael Ray to announce changes to the school lunch program. This desired national update is the first in more than fifteen years. After the announcement, the First Lady and the others joined schoolchildren at Parklawn Elementary School for lunch. The lunch consisted of recipes created for the occasion by Rachael Ray to demonstrate how tasty the new regulations can be.  
While there was legislative debate regarding how some foods fit into a healthier student meal, in the end the final goals seem to have been achieved to provide healthier guidelines for the national program. Starting next school year, students will find lunch offerings designed to match the Dietary Guidelines for Americans using the newly updated national food icon as a guide. While this is exciting, it will bring financial concerns for many school districts as well. The updated meal requirement will be more costly to provide when districts are already facing tight budgets. Although six cents per lunch will be provided through Federal reimbursement, this amount isn't expected to match the increased cost per meal to produce meals that meet these guidelines.
The new guidelines require schools to offer more nutrient dense menus by increasing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free fluid milk and low-fat dairy while lowering meal sodium, saturated and trans fat levels. While many schools have already made changes in the milk they offer, here are the additional changes students and parents will find next fall.
Posted 1/30/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 33 comments   13,441 views
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Diet Friendly Dining: Denny's

In The Santa Clause movie, Scott Calvin and his son visit Denny's late in the evening after burning their holiday meal because America's diner is always open. Besides always being open, Denny's is probably best known for breakfast because it is served all day long. If breakfast isn't for you, a variety of other diner favorites are available to meet all kinds of tastes. In America, diners or "greasy spoons" were known for great tasting foods that were less than healthy. Today, Denny's attempts to keep the diner favorites while also offering more nutritionally fit meal options as well as a value menu so both the nutrition and cost conscience patron can find what they are looking for.
Denny's Fit Fare guide will be your key to better nutrition at your next visit. In addition to a variety of designated Fit Fare options, you can also substitute healthier items like egg whites, chicken sausage, turkey bacon, wheat pancakes, sugar-free syrup, Fit Fare fresh veggies, or seasonal fruit in any meal. The Fit Fare logos will help you identify the best choices to meet your nutrition meal goals.
  • Fit Fare Lean: Under 15 grams of fat
  • Fit Fare Light: Under 550 calories
  • Fit Fare Protein: Over 20 grams of protein
  • Fit Fare Fiber: Over 8 grams of fiber
Here are the best choices we found that might help you stay within your nutrition goals as you enjoy a meal away from home.
Posted 12/5/2011  6:00:00 PM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 13 comments   16,862 views
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Diet Friendly Dining: LongHorn Steakhouse

LongHorn has been serving great tasting grilled steaks for more than 30 years. Today, you can find many other great tasting grilled options as well in their 350 restaurants located in 33 states. LongHorn has a stated commitment to sustainability and reducing businesses impact on the environment. Some ways they support that commitment is by building efficient restaurants as well as increased energy, water and waste management efficiency.
Grilling can enhance the flavor of meats, poultry, fish and even garden-fresh fruits and vegetables. Since marinades, spicy rubs, or tangy glazes are frequently used to enhance the flavor, it is important to pay attention to the calories and sodium content when selecting a grilled favorite when eating away from home.  When ordering meals away from home, we suggest aiming for a complete meal containing 500 calories and 15-20 grams of fat or less.
Portion size is always a key when dining away from home and keeping your nutrient intake in check. One way to enjoy your favorite dish while saving calories and fat is to eat at lunchtime instead of dinnertime. If dinner is when you decide to eat out, plan on only eating half of the entrée and taking the rest home or sharing your entrée with a friend.
Appetizers here are typically high calorie and high fat "extras" that sometimes can be used as an alternative to an entrée but are best avoided as the start to a meal. Be sure anything you select as an entrée alternative is baked, broiled or grilled and does not contain sauces. Potato skins would be your best choice but of course without the cheese, bacon, or sour cream. Ask if they will top them with steamed broccoli instead.
Salads can be a good option but you have to pay attention since many are tossed in dressing and then topped with the other ingredients like meat, nuts, or raw veggies. Skip the Caesar salad that is higher in fat, calories, and sodium. Ask for the dressing to be included on the side and since portion sizes are on the large side, don't be afraid to take part of it home.
Here are some of the better options from LongHorn that you might enjoy next time you head out for a grilled favorite.
Posted 11/7/2011  2:00:00 PM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 9 comments   15,964 views
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4-Ingredient Recipes

Here at, we love 4-ingredient recipes! They are simple, cheap and many of these ingredients are probably already in your kitchen cabinets. So, whether you are trying to save time, money, or to simplify your cooking, these recipes will please the pocket book, as well as the palate.  

Date Loaf

Lunchbox Sushi

Chicken Carnival Cones

Pumpkin & Lentil Curry
Posted 9/21/2011  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 16 comments   31,855 views
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11 Dark Green Leafy Vegetable Recipes

According to the latest USDA nutritional guidelines, dark green vegetables should be a significant component of your vegetable intake. Collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, beet greens, spinach, chard, and kale are just a few of the dark green vegetables that are a rich in vitamins (K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins), minerals (like iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium), and phyto-nutrients. In order to maximize nutritional value and flavor, use these simple SparkRecipes.

Sauteed Garlic & Greens

Roasted Kale Chips

Stir-fried Kale with Slivered Carrots

Kale and Potato Hash

Spinach Burgers

World's Best Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Posted 8/17/2011  6:00:00 AM By: Samantha Donohue : 9 comments   39,850 views
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Food on the Run: Starbucks Bistro Boxes

Eating on the run can be a challenge when you want quick service and healthy. Starbucks launched a new product line in mid-July to change all that. Their new nutritious grab-and-go options called Bistro Boxes incorporate Dietary Guideline recommendations. Meal and snack options comprised of whole foods like vegetables, fruit, proteins, and whole grains apply the new MyPlate icon in a fast food option. Whether selecting the entrée or snack size, you can enjoy a nutrient rich, whole food focused meal for less than 500 calories. Some even include a chocolate treat! Sodium and fat in several of the options are still on the higher side so care when ordering is necessary. However, these new alternatives rise to the top of our Food on the Run list and are definitely something worth checking out.
Posted 8/8/2011  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 66 comments   23,515 views
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Summer’s Farm-Fresh Feast

One of Nature’s greatest gifts is a summer harvest. Peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and green beans are a canvas on which everyday cooks become culinary artists, preparing old favorites and dreaming up new dishes to please family and friends. The baskets and barrels of your local farmers market bring the finest fresh produce from nearby farms to your city streets. Peruse the booths, choosing from all the colors of the rainbow to get the greatest nutritional benefit. Experience every possible flavor, texture and scent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, making use of the local knowledge about what produce is in-season and at peak ripeness. Above all, enjoy the financial benefit of supporting local farmers, taking advantage of great deals, and investing in your health with nutritional and tasty summer treats.
10 Summer Harvest Recipes
Easy Zucchini Parmesan

Crispy Green Beans with Pesto
Posted 8/3/2011  6:00:00 AM By: Samantha Donohue : 6 comments   10,713 views
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Tips to Make Great Skewer Kebabs

Recently we enjoyed a long reunion weekend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with my extended family. The home-style cooking and family-style meal service at many of the restaurants we visited made wise meal choices and portion control a challenge. At several meals, I selected a skewer entrée, which caught my son's attention. After the second time ordering them, he asked what my sudden interest was with "food on a stick." Sounds like a typical teenage question doesn't it. I informed him it was a great way for me to control my entrée portion size while also getting some grilled vegetables. Kebabs have become very common in Western countries. On American menus, they may simply be called skewers or shish kebab, which is skewer of grilled meat. Kebabs are prepared in most Middle Eastern countries but are not always prepared on a skewer or consist of cubed meat and vegetables. There are several different spellings commonly used as well.

You can select a variety of skewers and the type you pick does make a difference. Flat stainless steel skewers hold food well but transfer heat and cold differently than a wooden skewer. Recipes may suggest one over the other based on whether the foods will be cooked or chilled, are more solid or prone to spin. Skewer kebabs can be prepared hot with lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken, fish, seafood, or tofu and vegetables. They can also be prepared cold with a variety of raw fruits, vegetables or cheeses for a "no cooking necessary" meal option or as a edible decorative centerpiece for a party. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare skewer kebabs this summer.

Posted 7/5/2010  1:28:48 PM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 24 comments   26,042 views
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Poll: Are You a Healthy Foods Martyr?

A few years ago, when this healthy living stuff was a little newer to me and my weight loss was recent, I was much stricter about what I ate.

Oat bran with plain yogurt and ground flax, salads with no dressing, shirataki noodles, and fat-free dairy were all a regular part of my diet. Those are all healthy foods. The trouble is: I thought they tasted awful.

I made myself eat them not because I wanted to eat them, but because I thought I should be eating them. By forgoing anything sweet in my morning yogurt, leaving the dressing off my salads and swapping real noodles for low-calorie ones, I thought I was making smart decisions. I would learn to like them, I thought.

In those days, I was a features copy editor at a large daily newspaper. I often ate breakfast and lunch at my desk. I would pull out my beige and white breakfast, dry salads and other wacky creations, and my co-workers would peer over the walls diving our cubes and cringe.

Crinkling their noses, they'd ask, "You're eating that?"

"Yes," I replied with a sigh. "It's good for me."

I was a Healthy Foods Martyr, forgoing taste for nutrition. Sure, there were plenty of healthy foods that I liked, but I thought I should also eat all healthy foods--even if they didn't taste good.
Posted 4/19/2010  2:01:09 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 128 comments   19,698 views
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