Mall Food Court Tips and Spaghetti Squash Tricks!

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Hey HG,

I love shopping! But when I end up at the mall for a few hours, I always get sucked into the food court. Can you give me any advice? I'm always upset with myself when I give in to greasy pizza or Chinese food.

Shopping Shoshana

Hi Shoshana,

I love shopping too -- and it burns calories! Here's what you can do to set yourself up for success when you wind up at the mall for a long shopping session...

Plan ahead… Never, ever go shopping when you're hungry. Shopping can be energy draining, especially if you're at it for more than an hour. Plan your trip with mealtime in mind, and head to the mall after breakfast or lunch. Pack some emergency snacks, too, in case you end up being there for longer than expected. I like to keep a 100-calorie pack of almonds, some jerky, a filling snack bar, and/or a piece of fruit in my purse.

Watch out for food fakers… Smoothies, a mall staple, are often loaded with calories, because of added sugars and other calorie-dense ingredients. And even plain soft pretzels are generally oversized and contain hundreds and hundreds of carby calories.

If you have to have a meal… Rock the special order. Your best bet is a sub/deli shop. Get a small turkey breast sub -- skip the cheese and mayo, but load up on veggies and flavorful sandwich fixins (like sliced jalapeños or pepperoncini). To make it even lighter, request it over shredded lettuce instead of on a bun. Then get low-fat dressing on the side, and use it sparingly. Or go for Mexican food -- have a grilled-chicken salad (no cheese or crispy toppings, and definitely no fried tortilla bowl!) with salsa in place of dressing. Even Chinese food can be a decent choice -- if the place has steamed chicken or shrimp with veggies, you're good to go!

Click here for survival guides to help you navigate other mall-food regulars… Coffee shops, fast-food offerings, chain restaurants, and more. Happy shopping!  

Hungry Girl,

I love spaghetti squash, but it always comes out watery and mushy when I make it. Can you give me some tips?

Janice in Jacksonville

Hi Janice,

Isn't spaghetti squash awesome? Only around 40 calories a cup, plus it has fiber and makes an excellent pasta swap! But no one likes mushy food, so here are some suggestions for perfectly cooked spaghetti squash...

My go-to cooking method is to first microwave the squash for 3 - 4 minutes, so it's easier to cut. Then halve it lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Place the halves (cut side down) in a large baking pan with 1/2 inch water. Bake at 400 degrees until tender, about 40 minutes.

Overcooking can be a cause of mushy strands. Check on the squash at around the 30-minute mark, carefully giving the squash a firm poke with the end of a wooden spoon. You might also want to pick up an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is cooking at the right temperature. You'd be surprised how often the built-in thermometers are off.

Let the halves cool for a bit before scraping out the strands. Then fully drain any excess water in a strainer. If there's still moisture, blot the strands with paper towels. Keep blotting until they're dry!

Now, I actually like my squash on the soft side. But if you want it a little more al dente, here's an alternate prep method I've heard works really well. Use the above baking directions but skip the water, and cover the pan with foil. Check your squash at the 25-minute mark to see if it's reached your ideal texture. If not, continue cooking and checking every 5 minutes or so.

By the way, if you want to save some time, go the microwave-only route. After nuking for a few minutes to soften, cut your squash into quarters. Remove the seeds, and place one piece of squash in a wide microwave-safe bowl, cut side down. Add 2 tbsp. water, cover, and cook for 8 minutes, or until soft. Check it sooner for a firmer texture!

Hope this helps. Click here for more squash-tastic info, and click here for recipes!

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Today, October 30th, is Haunted Refrigerator Night. SPOOKY! Clean that sucker out, and stock it with fresh fruits and veggies.

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