Last week I found myself on a lovely adventure in Boston Massachusetts.
Many know Boston as a mecca for seafood on the East Coast – so I couldn’t wait to indulge myself in lobster, clams, steamers, oysters and other creatures of the sea. In fact, here’s what I had in mind :
Picture credit: Wikipedia Boston Clam Bake
Overall, I had an amazing time.
I ran through the campuses of Harvard, BU and MIT, rowed on the Charles river, toured the city, did some shopping, and caught up on some sleep.
Unfortunately, the restaurants didn’t live up to my culinary expectations.
Giving the food it’s due respect, it did inspire me to share my top five tips to eating healthy when dining at unfamiliar restaurants:
1. A cup of pasta is 200 Calories – do your math before finishing the plate!
On the first night, I took a long run through the beautiful neighborhoods by the Charles river. For dinner I went to a restaurant on the pier and got the seafood platter special. It came with a suspiciously small amount of seafood but enough pasta to stuff a pillow. There were more than 4 servings left over after I refueled on carbs after my 8 mile run.
The leftover pasta is more than I eat in a week. This restaurant is not alone, thousands across the globe serve pasta in these proportions.
I estimated my dinner had well over a thousand calories of pasta alone. I did not take the remainder home in a to-go box.
2. Avoid breaded and fried foods
On the second day, I went to a seafood restaurant right in the port. It was a highly talked about “hidden jewel of the harbor” where only the wise locals go. If they do have the “freshest fish in Boston”, they go to great efforts to conceal this fact by immediately breading and frying anything that comes through their doors. My fiance’ said we should leave before finding out if this extends to patrons.
Breaded and fried foods add hundreds and hundreds of unnecessary calories to your meal. Not to mention we can’t be sure what kind of oil they’re using. It can be very, very unhealthy.
3. Ask how the food is prepared
The next seafood restaurant we encountered had just about every kind of fish imaginable and a large, creative menu. “This is more like it!” I thought, and ordered several items that sounded healthy and delicious.
My fish tacos were healthy, but flavorless. My salad was covered with oil. The steamed clams were in an oily tomato sauce, and in the middle of the plate was a giant bowl of at least a whole stick of melted butter.. and I think there was oil in that, too. WOW. These chefs are definitely not catering to people who care about their health and what they eat.
If I weren’t so hungry when I ordered I would have remembered to ask how it was prepared – then I wouldn’t have had to wonder how many calories of fat and oil I hungrily devoured over lunch. The thought of butter and oil floating through my veins and into my fat cells haunted me until my next run.
4. Tell them how you want your food made if it’s not already offered that way
On the next day, we stopped at a raved-about raw oyster bar where I ordered some low calorie, high protein oysters and a lobster sandwich to fuel my day of touring. I asked three times to make sure that they substitute the fries with a salad as a side for my sandwich. When it came out there were four pieces of lettuce on the side and the lobster was drowned in butter. Wah wah (sound of trombone playing).
I thought it was funny they would think someone so obsessed about getting a salad instead of fries would want their sandwich soaked in butter. I was pretty hungry but I couldn’t bring myself to eat the bread because I used it to absorb so much of the butter from the lobster.
The four pieces of lettuce did nothing to satisfy my appetite.
In short, you don’t want food that is buttered, slathered in cheese, or sauteed in oil. If you have to choose something like this, ask that they “go light” on it, or avoid it altogether.
5. Don’t trust the menu to give you the whole scoop on how it’s cooked
On the last day of vacation, we were tired of encountering buttery, oily, fried, extra fatty, ultra high calorie food. We consulted sources like Yelp, the Where magazine of Boston, the Where Book on Boston, the hotel concierge, and the tour bus guide and still couldn’t find what we were looking for, so we decided to look around on foot.
We landed at a cozy bistro in the south end with lovely, candlelit outdoor seating. The menu listed simple, broiled lobster on a plate. After we asked the waiter how the lobster was cooked, and told him we wanted absolutely nothing on it but the herbs and he swore on his life that the lobster wasn’t battered, fried, drowned in butter or swallowed by a tub of mayonnaise we ordered it to share. I also got a baked potato with sour cream on the side and “lightly salted” corn.
Our fresh, naked lobster, tasted so good! But, the “lightly salted” corn was swimming in butter. Ugh!
Expect that, when you order things for the first time, you may have to skip some of the things on your plate. If you’re a Bostonian and you have some hints about healthy seafood restaurants in your area, please let me know in the comments below. I’ll definitely go back, but probably not for the seafood!
Some healthy side notes on seafood and your diet:
(and some additional pics below):
- A fresh lobster already has its own buttery taste that’s masked if you use butter or other dressings. If a restaurant serves fresh lobster right off the boat, you don’t need to hide its yummy taste with butter or mayo. And, if they do – something is amiss…
- Ask for dressing on the side of a salad or a potato because it can run about 90 Calories per tablespoon. If you let the kitchen put dressing on your salad it will always be more calories than you’d ever desire.
- Every mollusk-eating person knows that good mussels have good flavor all by themselves. In fact, that’s the reason why we eat them – the taste reminds us of the ocean. Mussel broth can be made with wine or tomato sauce and spices and have a great taste without tons of calories or unspecified fat. Medium sized mussels run only about 7 calories each so you don’t need to ruin a good, low-cal dish with added fat and oil.
That’s such a shame, but you share some really important tips here. Growing up, my parents insisted we would eat together at the table and we would have nice, long chats which meant we ate slower. Which also means I would properly digest my food and I felt full before a stomach ache set in. I feel as though people nowadays are accustomed to eating so quickly, they don’t actually know when they’re full!
Good to know I wasn’t being blind to the healthy places! I usually do pretty well sleuthing out the good restaurants for yummy healthy food – but I had no luck here.
When I was in New England over the summer, we had the exact same problem! Even for breakfast, things like fruit were simply non-existant. I was looking forward to some grilled fish, but I never did find it. Everything was fried or drowning in butter and oil.