Wednesday, July 28, 2010

LA: In and Out, Dodger Game and sticking with it

Over the past four days I was in LA completing a few affairs for my father. As many of you know, traveling can be a challenge to new habits of good and nutritious eating. For me there are other challenges besides just the travel to LA. I am originally from LA, so I know my way around many good eateries. Plus LA is and SO Cal in general is home to my favorite fast food chain: In and Out. I am generally not too much into any fast foods for many reasons not just the our physical health but also environmental health reasons. But, when it comes to In and Out, I am weak in the knees. As a matter of fact almost any member of my family who visits CA goes first to In and Out. I know exactly where the one is closest to LAX and you can bet I went there upon arrival.

Okay. Wait a minute you say. How can you go and eat In and Out when you are SO committed to healthy eating? Planning. That is how. Plan. Plan. Plan. I went on line to find out exactly how many calories were in an In and Out Burger (no cheese for me please) and some fries: 490 plus about 200 for a few French Fries(Yep and Yikes!). What to do: eat super careful on the day before and the day after. I tried to bring in my calorie totals on the low side, about 1200 vs. the 1500 I aim for daily. So, I walked into In and Out knowing exactly what I would eat. I enjoyed every bite. I ate it so s-l-o-w-l-y. Every bite. It was delicious! Here is a picture of the food we ordered. Yum!

Next challenge: Dodger Stadium. If you have been reading my blog you know by now that I am a sports fan: Tour de France and World Cup Soccer, but I am also a huge Dodger fan. I try to take in at least one Dodger game a year if at all possible. A trip to Dodger Stadium was exactly what the doctor ordered to take my mind off of the real business at hand in LA. Here are a few pictures:

Did you notice that there is a Subway icon on the top of the Dodger sign? Well, Subway is exactly what helped me to go to a Dodger game and eat sensibly. Dodger Stadium allows you to bring food in and even soft-sided coolers (imagine that in the Metrodome!). My hubby and I stopped at a Subway as we drove through West LA to Dodger Stadium. I felt a little self righteous (this was one day after my In and Out joy) as we enjoyed our delicious and only 310-calorie per sandwich lunch. It tasted great! There is NOTHING in Dodger Stadium (even those beloved Dodger dogs) that hold a candle to something from In and Out. Sure, it all tastes great because most of the foods are either salty, fatty or sweet. But to me, the stadium foods are just not worth the calorie expenditures. So, advice to any of you going in to a sports stadium: check online to see if they allow you to bring in food items. It makes a difference and you will be glad you prepared.

Another thing I found really helpful in LA was the fact that in many restaurants the calorie and nutrition break down are listed right on the menu. I know from reading Marion Nestle and her blog that listing nutritional information is required now by law in NYC. But, as you can imagine there are many industrial interests that oppose such mandated nutrition facts on restaurant menus in other cities or as national policy. At IHOP and Hooters in the LA area, they DO list the calorie values for all items on the menu. Believe me , it is a shock to see how many calories are found in some traditional fare. Take an omelet for example. What do you estimate for calories for a veggie omelet (seems healthy, eh??)?? 200. 300. 400. 500. 600 calories. Nope, all wrong. It is over 800 calories, especially if you have it with cheese. Imagine, eating 800 calories for breakfast. Add in OJ and a piece of toast or two and you are WAY over 1200 calories. For breakfast!

I found the nutrition statements on the menus invaluable. I used the nutrition guides on restaurant to help me to make good food choices. At the hotel where we stayed there was an IHOP, which made it very convenient to eat breakfast there. What did I eat at the International House of Pancakes??? Oatmeal. Yep. Plain oatmeal with raisins and a little non-fat milk and brown sugar. About 220 calories each morning. Another place we went was Hooters. More for convenience too, since it was near the Santa Monica Pier, which was a brisk walk from our hotel. Check out the caloric count for the salads at Hooters. Can you believe you can order a dinner type salad and that will cost you at least 500!!! Calories?!?!?! What to do?? Check out the garden salads. They have less than 100 calories. If you also have your salad dressing on the side and dip your salad in instead of pouring it all over, you have a reasonable meal with few calories. They also serve steamed shrimp-a small serving is only about 200 calories.

Now mind you, not ever restaurant disclosed their nutrition facts. This made me guess that posting nutrition information is voluntary in LA or CA. My awareness was heightened because of IHOP and Hooters which made it possible to be more informed as I made menu choices at restaurants without nutrition facts.

So what am I learning about myself? I can enjoy the foods that I like (In and Out) and make good food choices when I am traveling. As a matter of fact, I believe I enjoyed that burger and the few fries much more because I was so mindful about the calories and developing a plan that it would make it possible for me to eat them without any guilt or feeling like I was binging. And another thing: I found out that having these infrequent food items once in four days was enough for me. I simply did not crave them any more. I was actually satisfied. I also know that it is very possible to go to traditional high calorie eateries, In and Out being one, and to a ballpark and eat sensibly. Ruminating more, I am learning something else out about myself: that is, I can take the normal ups and downs, even the life events and continue to eat sensibly. Notice I said sensibly. I am not perfect. But, I am learning to eat sensibly; to plan and to be overall more attentive to what I am eating. Liberating and empowering. Thanks for reading.

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