10 Diet survival tips: Italian restaurant edition: 【イタリアンレストラン版】ダイエット中のフードガイド

Now, if you’re on a diet or on a clean eating lifestyle and don’t wanna risk your waistline or spending time feeling guilty after visiting an Italian restaurant, here are some good tips! I know pizza and pasta are the perfect traps that are so hard to turn down, especially when you’re among friends, but you really don’t have to limit yourself to one plate of salad. In addition to food, you should also enjoy your companions and spend quality time.

Pasta dishes in Japan are pretty huge in size. You would normally get more than 1 serving, sometimes almost 2-3 servings per dish. On average, you will be consuming more than 500 kcal. But it is not always about calories! It’s more about what the food contains, which is a crucial factor to an overall quality of your meal. So, you can still go and enjoy a get-together with your friends over Italian food and you’re your diet on track!

Here are some tips to keep in mind when attacked by the menu:

  1. Choose your pasta sauce. Look for any dish with tomato- or oil-base. Skip those with cream – yeah, those with white creamy looking sauce; say bye-bye to Carbonara for a while. Oh, and this includes cream tomato sauce, too. Pasta with olive oil base can be really good for you unless the chef makes it too oily. :/ Also, don’t wipe up all the sauce or else you will end up taking in unnecessary calories you don’t need.
  2. Choose your pasta. Choose the slimmest noodle possible. If there is a choice of “angel hair” then choose it over ravioli or penne. If whole wheat option is possible, choose that over the plain white pasta. Mostly in Japan, though, you’ll be presented with various kinds of spaghetti. In some places, you can also use how many grams you want. That option is usually for guys who heavily dope on carbs. Always ASK if they can make your dish with 100 grams of pasta. (I used to see such option labeled as the “lady’s set”).
  3. Choose your proteins. Look for menus that include more protein such as minced chicken, minced pork, nama ham (prosciutto), or seafood. Feel yourself up with good protein instead of simple carbs.
  4. Be careful of your salad. If you go to family restaurant, salads can be the killer. They will fill the bowl up with mayonnaise or creamy dressing. Choose salad with lots of LEAFY green and opt for olive oil and balsamic sauce or lemon. Also, always ASK for the dressing to be served SEPARATELY. This tip really means a lot and it may help you save more than 100 kcal.  Same thing with grated cheese, ask it to be provided on the side so that you can sprinkle it on your own. Give it half to one tablespoon. If you need more flavor, ask for salt and pepper, especially those that come with the miller. You will love the fresh smell and tanginess of pepper!
  5. Choose the right soup. When it comes to soup, always choose CLEAR over CREAM. It’s that easy. During your diet, you don’t need butter and cream. Rather, you will want to choose veggies soup to warm your stomach up and reduce the hunger that would make you jump into the main dish later. You’ll be surprised that at some restaurants, clear and creamy soup can be more than 100 kcal different.
  6. Skip the soft drink set. In Japan, it is very common that you’ll have a choice of paying a little bit more to have a soft drink. This gives you a choice of Coca-Cola, sprite, ginger ale, orange juice, grapefruit juice, milk tea, iced/hot coffee, etc. This is when you should be careful! If you have a choice (meaning, not included in a lunch set for example), you can just skip it and just order WATER. If the soft drink is included in your set, choose Oolong tea! It would help slow down the fat absorption process in your body. Never order juices or milky tea/coffee or any soft drink during your diet. You’ll be consuming a lot of empty calories – all of which is sugar. L For wine, have a glass if you REALLY need to. Just remember a glass is supposed to be the limit if you plan to have a hearty meal.
  7. What about pizza? Personally, I wouldn’t advise you to go near pizza just because it is harder to get around it. You will be eating carbs and cheese. And although you order something plain like tomato, mozzarella cheese, and basil (which, by the way, is simply a divine combination), it would be hard to control your caloric intake. Just to be safe, order something else. If your friend insists you have a piece, go ahead but leave the edge.
  8. BREADDDDD. This might be the hardest thing to resist or monitor. You could say no to warm crispy bread especially when it comes with butter. When presented with a basket of bread, set it in front of your friends, far away from you. Take ONE SLICE of baguette (as is often served in Japan) and skip the butter. Better yet, pass BOTH bread and butter if you know you’re gonna be eating pasta afterwards.
  9. If there is a meat/fish dish, choose it over pasta/pizza! Beautiful piece of LEAN protein (such as fish, lamp, or Tenderloin steak) would leave you no guilt. Just be careful to avoid those with MASHED POTATOES.
  10. Dessert anyone? I’d suggest you pass the dessert. But if you NEED to, don’t panic, go straight to one word: “sorbet.” It has the lowest calories in the whole dessert menu, if not including fruits. Lemon sorbet or anything sour would clean your palette really well but won’t leave your stomach heavy. You won’t wanna be loading in other 300-400 kcal after a whole meal. Rather, reward yourself (if you need to) with refreshing sorbet that would score around 100 kcal per serving. Just be reminded that although low in fat, it is still high in sugar.

Hope these tips would help you to navigate through the menus and fail-proof your diet journey. Don’t let yummy Italian food ruins your diet attempt. Or on the other hand, don’t be too stressful/restrictive about dieting that you forget to enjoy amazingly tasty food. They can go together hand in hand; you just have to know what to choose!

Next time you visit a restaurant, look for tomato based pasta, ask the waiter to reduce the serving size, ask for water or oolong tea, ask for a separate bowl of salad dressing or cheese topping, choose clear soup, be careful to take just ONE slice of bread, and choose sorbet if dessert is to be had.

Good luck and enjoy good food!

Healthy food choices at Starbucks that won’t ruin your diet : ダイエット中におすすめ、スターバックスのヘルシーフード

This post is going to be about healthy food choices you can make if you happen to step into Starbucks in Japan. There are a lot of good-looking food out there in Starbucks and every time I go I have to spend sometimes thinking about what to best pair with my cappuccino. Here’re some good-for-your-body items I wanna recommend!

1. Seasonal item: 15 items Mexican Avocado salad wrap (サラダラップ 15品目 メキシカンアボカド)

サラダラップ 15品目 メキシカンアボカド

Energy: 297 kcal (below 300 kcal choice, perfect if you want to pair with a 100-smt kcal drink)
Why it’s good: apart from lots of veggies, it includes scrumptious creamy avocado sauce, edamame and kidney beans! This would leave vibrant aftertaste and avocado would make you feel satisfied.

2. Chicken and roots vegetable salad wrap (サラダラップ(根菜チキン))

サラダラップ (根菜チキン)

Energy: 155 kcal (lowest among sandwich type)
Why it’s good: this is the most long-lasting menu in Starbucks. It’s a no-brainer. Want something healthy? Just grab this and you’ll never be sorry. Did I say it’s really creamy? And trust me you’ll love the crunch from the walnuts!

3. Seasonal item: Chicken Caesar salad wrap (サラダラップ チキンシーザー)

サラダラップ チキンシーザー

Energy: 302 kcal
Why it’s good: You’ll get the creamy/tangy Caesar sauce together with loads of chicken for protein. At the bottom, you’ll find a surprise layer of boiled egg to finish your last bite.

4. Basil chicken and avocado-shrimp grain bread sandwich (グレインブレッド バジルチキン&アボカドシュリンプ)

グレインブレッド バジルチキン&アボカドシュリンプ

Energy: 340
Why it’s good: Looking for a satisfying sandwich for lunch? Just grab this! First, it’s better than plain white bread of those sandwiches in the combini. Second, it has avocado and shrimp – the most compatible pair of food, and who can say NO to avocado? Third, chicken would give you the protein and I just love its taste together with the basil sauce. It’s below 350 kcal so still a safer and healthier choice than other pastries! 

Now, don’t get lost in choosing muffins or cakes, try out some salad wraps and sandwich if you’re looking for a good healthy lunch while enjoying your favorite cup of Joe.

My favorite organic restaurant&cafe “From Hand to Mouth” : 「フロハン」というオーガニックのカフェ

Soooooo THIS IS MY NUMBER ONE CAFE OF ALL TIME IN TOKYO!
Whenever I had to go back home for a couple of months, the place I missed the most is this cafe with a funny name “From Hand to Mouth”. In Japanese, this would be soooo long that people shorten it to “Fu-ro-ha-n” or 「フロハン」(for From Hand..).

It’s located a few steps away to Nishi-waseda bus stop (if going by Toei Bus 学02), just at the corner to the west gate of Waseda campus of Waseda University (Yes my own uni!). If you go at lunch time, you might find it hard to find places to sit sometimes as this is one of the most popular hang-out, chatting, afternoon-tea-ing, catch-up-with-old-friend, spending-quality-time-alone place of girls! I hang out here nights and days during my time in uni, brought sooo many friends, ate almost all the dishes on the menu. I went there so much that I am currently at my THIRD membership card. If you are a member, you’ll get 50 yen discount for lunch time and after you complete one line on the card, you either get discount or exchange with something on the menu.

Enough for the advertising (actually no, but I guess you guys want to know now what’s amazing about it), let us go see what food it offers! First up, Lunch….3 main menus. (all for 880 yen – 830 yen for members)
A. Soup lunch: a daily soup filled with veggies and good-for-you protein, a BIG heap of fresh salad and original olive oil dressing, freshly baked on the day bread (which is different daily) and scrambled eggs. Oops! I forgot a piece of fruit (either apple or orange). Can’t ask for more. HEALTHY. CHOICE!

B. Curry lunch: Behold, this is NOT the typical Japanese curry since this is filled with beans and veggies on top of brown rice (with a mix of seeds and different kinds of wheat). A little portion of mango chutney is also placed neatly on one corner. A piece of fruit has its own place to wrap up the meal. This is very suitable for those who are extremely hungry and want something filling but good and hearty for the stomach.

C. Crape lunch: Maybe the most popular of all menus. Made to order crape (buckwheat flour) with 2 different fillings (changed daily too), topped with creamy yogurt dressing and black pepper. One would be Japanese filling and the other is a bit more Western which would definitely incorporate CHEESE!! A big heap of salad!!! and a piece of fruit. Oh goshhh sooooo amazing!

I can’t begin to say…Lunches here are equally tasty and nutritious so it really depends on your mood on the day. The dinner time also has sooo many more menus. My favorite is “Locomoco-don”(ロコモコ丼)890 yen. Two burger pieces made with different kinds of wheat and seeds mixed with minced beef (1/4 of the burger) topped with sweet-sour-tangy sauce (which…I’m telling you…is extremely addictive) together with big heaps of salad and small half-done sunny side-up egg. Nothing will ever win over this dish. I even dreamed about it once. Lol I went there and ordered this menu so often that the owner (who I frequented with) already knew what I were to order. I also changed the menu a little bit by asking for less portion of rice and volume up the salad with balsamic dressing instead of the yogurt dressing.

Check it out here! http://www.cafe-fhtm.com/index.html

From Hand To Mouth

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This is the Lunch set B: Crape lunch

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And….as you can see the bottom left and top right are the curry set, the bottom right is the soup set.

Give this place a try!!! AND YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED! EVER!
PS: it is closed on sundays.

Love it!