Seafood Ordering 411, Plus Burger Patty Picks!

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Hi HG,

My husband and I love to eat at seafood restaurants, but now that I'm trying to lose weight, I have no idea what's "safe" to order. Help me, Hungry Girl!

Fishin' for Facts

Hi Fishin',

You're in luck! There are SO many guilt-free options at seafood restaurants. But you can easily take in too many calories if you're not careful. So read up and learn things before you order...

To start, avoid the bread basket, for the most part. (Those cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster are addictive and have 150 calories and 8g fat each!) But if you've gotta have something from it, go for oyster crackers -- only about 60 calories and 1.5g fat per half-ounce (about 15 crackers or a small pack).

There are usually some great light appetizers to choose from: Steamed mussels, steamed clams, and shrimp cocktail are all smart choices. Broth-based soup is another great way to start your meal -- studies show that you'll eat fewer calories overall if you start with soup. And of course, a side salad with low-fat or fat-free dressing is a good pick... but avoid the dressing-soaked Caesar side salad. (You know this!) Crispy calamari and coconut shrimp are bad news; they're usually deep fried, and coconut shrimp typically comes with a fattening, creamy dipping sauce.

For your entrée, crab legs and lobster are fantastic options because they're almost always available steamed in the shell, so you don't have to worry about any oil or sauce soaking in. Skip the butter that's served on the side -- crab and lobster taste so delicious, you won't even need it. A squirt of lemon is nice, though!

As for the shell-free options, look for fish fillets that come grilled or broiled. Watch out for menu items that are battered, breaded, crusted, or stuffed. And be careful with creamy sauces. Ask for a side of salsa or pico de gallo -- so much flavor for hardly any calories.

Another fun option? Cioppino, which is a stew of assorted fish in a tomato broth. Depending on the restaurant, it can be very light or a little heavy -- ask about the ingredients, and steer clear if it contains a lot of oil.

When it comes to side dishes, steamed veggies without butter are always your best bet. Craving something starchy? Skip the mashed potatoes, French fries, and pasta. Go for a plain baked potato or rice, and watch the portion size.

As with all restaurant ordering, always see if the nutritional info is available online before you head out -- this way you'll know exactly what you're in for. Hope you're feeling more prepared for your next date-night dinner. P.S. Check out our Red Lobster Survival Guide from a couple of years ago -- lots of good info in there! 

Hi Hungry Girl,

I am looking for some good ready-made turkey burgers and veggie patties for when I'm in a rush to whip up dinner. What are your recommendations? I don't eat beef, and I don't like veggie burgers that taste like beef.

Patty Kate

Hi Patty Kate,

There are many, many beef-free burger patties out there, but not all taste great and have reasonable stats. Luckily, I've tried LOTS of 'em and have the 411. Here are my top picks...

Poultry Patties - I'm a big fan of Jennie-O's Lean Turkey Burger Patties. They come refrigerated and have 180 calories and 9g fat each (PointsPlus® value 4*). They're packed with protein, so they're really filling. If you can't find those, look for ones with similar stats (frozen or refrigerated). Click here for a quick and easy recipe that calls for a turkey burger patty. Another AMAZING option? The brand-spanking-new Weight Watchers Chicken Burgers, which are frozen patties with super-impressive stats -- 140 calories and 4g fat per patty (PointsPlus® value 3). Most chicken burgers are NOT lean, so these are really special. And they taste incredible.

Veggie Burgers - There are a lot of options out there: veggie-based, grain-containing, soy-centric, etc. Look for patties with about 100 calories and a good amount of fiber. I like the kinds by Amy's, Gardenburger, MorningStar Farms, Dr. Praeger's (blot excess oil!), and Veggie Patch. If you don't do soy (many veggie burgers are made with it, even if they aren't billed as "soy burgers"), both Amy's California and Sonoma veggie burgers are soy-free and fantastic.

Click here for a whole bunch of recipes that call for meatless hamburger-style patties; just swap out the "beefy" patties for veggie burgers. If you don't feel like following a recipe, here are some guilt-free burger-building guidelines... High-fiber light buns are a great way to go, but they can be hard to find; I actually prefer to use 100-calorie flat sandwich buns, like Arnold Select/Brownberry/Oroweat Sandwich Thins. Or skip the carbs altogether, and wrap your burger in large lettuce leaves. For condiments, stick with mustard, ketchup, and/or fat-free or low-fat mayo. Pile your burger high with fresh veggies -- lettuce, tomato, onion, etc. -- and dill pickle chips. Cheese cravers: Go with a slice of the reduced-fat or fat-free kind.

Now you've got a whole bunch of reasons to fire up the grill (or grill pan) this summer. P.S. For those of you who do like "meaty" meatless burgers, click here for the full 411 on my absolute favorite: Boca Original Vegan Meatless Burgers. Enjoy!

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