When visiting Applebee’s headquarters last week in Kansas City, I had the privilege of learning some healthy dining tips from Executive Chefs Shannon Johnson, CEC and Jessica James. Shannon and Jessica are the brains behind Applebee’s U550 and Weight Watchers menus.
Until recently I did not give much thought to what I eat and as a result am overweight. It was exciting to learn ways to eat more healthy and still be satisfied. Here are just a few of their tips that really stood out for me.
When cooking at home…
Use full fat cheese instead of reduced fat, and just use less of it. Using a lesser amount of the full fat cheese will taste better than the reduced fat version. It’s not necessary to pour that whole bag of shredded cheese over a casserole. Half the amount will be just as satisfying. This really hit home for me, because I am so guilty of over-cheesing our meals. Also, aged cheeses are more flavorful so you don’t have to use as much. The U550 and Weight Watchers entrees at Applebee’s don’t taste like they are missing anything, so Shannon and Jessica are definitely on to something.
Cook with as many fresh ingredients as possible. When cooking with fresh ingredients you know exactly what is going into your food, no chemicals or preservatives. Buying fresh ingredients does not have to cost more. Buying them seasonally will cut down on the expense. Applebee’s is one of the few casual dining restaurants that finishes a dish with chopped fresh herbs. This simple finish adds so much flavor to a meal.
Cook with Pam or use non-stick cookware instead of using butter or vegetable oil as lubricants. I was surprised to learn that many of the U550 and Weight Watchers entrees are prepared using Pam. Applebee’s has Pam in a liquid form that I would love to get my hands on, but the spray should work just fine. I am so guilty of cooking with butter and vegetable oils most of the time and will make a conscious effort to use Pam from now on. It’s probably time to also invest in some new non-stick cookware.
When dining out…
Order your salad dressing on the side. I am so guilty of ruining a perfectly healthy salad with a drenching of ranch dressing. Ordering the dressing on the side allows you to control how much is used. It is also a good idea to dip your salad into the dressing. I am definitely doing this next time I order a salad.
Request a salad or side of vegetables instead of the fries. Many restaurants don’t list alternative sides, but if you ask they will probably accommodate you.
The next couple of tips are from fellow bloggers attending the Applebee’s Summit: Sahar of Fat Fighter TV suggested requesting a to-go box when you order. Pack up half of your meal to take home before you even begin eating. I love this suggestion. It will work great for someone like me who feels the need to clean her plate. Roni of Roni’s Weigh says to decline the bread basket and when ordering a burger, request no butter on the bun. I never thought about it before, but restaurants do slather the buns with butter before toasting them. All of these little changes will add up and really make a difference.
Be sure to visit Applebee’s to try the delicious new U550 and Weight Watchers Endorsed Entrees on the menu Monday, Feb 20th! I have just a few of them pictured below:
Disclosure: Applebee’s provided me with a complimentary trip to visit their headquarters in Kansas City. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.