Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Soups & Salads For Starters

Because my husband and I have somewhat erratic schedules that may have us at opposite ends of the city, our most balanced meal of the day is dinner. We almost always start the meal with a salad: a lettuce and tomato salad with a light dressing, followed by a 4 ounce entree, usually of beef, chicken, or fish, and a vegetable. Because of the starter salad, by the time we finish the rest of the meal, we're satisfied. A light dessert, (my husband really likes the Weight Watchers Smart Ones ice cream desserts which run anywhere from 160 to 190 calories), finishes it off.

Although I love a good crisp cold green salad with a cucumber ranch dressing on top, I realize that greens are not for everybody. Many people just are not fans of the taste of lettuce. For those of you who can't abide the idea, a very good alternative is soup. A starter soup is a great way to curb your appetite and help fill you up so that you don't overeat or are left still wanting something else at the end of the meal. But all soups are not created equal.
Cream soups, like what most restaurants are going to offer, creamed spinach, baked potato soup, broccoli cheese, these can pack a whopping amount of calories before you even get to the regular meal because of the cream and butter used to make them. Instead, try to stick with soups made with a clear broth base like chicken noodle, some tortilla soups, french onion (without the cheese and croutons). These can be quite filling and won't break your calorie bank. Another word of caution, however. Canned soups which can be low in calories can be very high in sodium. If you're watching your salt intake, check the nutrition label to be sure you're not going overboard with salt milligrams.

One alternative is to make your own soup. I know, it sounds labor intensive, but it doesn't have to be and it's really a great way to control what you're eating. If you get the kids involved, it can be fun. By making your own soup, you control the salt and calorie content. And if you do it on a weekend as a way of exercising your creative side, it can be quite fun and relaxing. Make enough to have several servings. Freeze what you're not going to eat in the next couple of days, in 1-2 serving portions. That way, when you're ready for more, you can easily thaw it out, even sticking it in the refrigerator the night before so it's ready the next day. A good website to find homemade dishes that usually include their calorie count, is Type in "chicken soup" or "low calorie soup" in the search box, and a host of ideas will pop up.

This really isn't a diet you're on. Going "on" a diet, implies that you'll one day go "off" it, and most probably go back to your old habits that got you here in the first place. This is a lifestyle change. A healthy low-calorie way of living that will make you look and feel better about yourself from now on.

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