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Try the Mussels

Avoiding high-calorie, gross foods can be easy, even when eating out.

My friend invited me out to dinner to announce she would be going on a diet. The irony is not lost on me; such an announcement might be better made on a jogging trail or at the gym.

That she picked the deadliest of places, a certain Italian restaurant chain, also was puzzling. The place where dinners easily stretch past 1,100 calories (a whole day's worth) and are not, in my opinion, very tasty.

Yet she was very excited as she simultaneously declared she intended to lose massive amounts of weight and that the minestrone was about 300 calories less than the salad.

So this week’s Patch Takes It Off column is about calories in food. Specifically, that one Olive Garden breadstick is a horrifying 150 calories, while the entire giant plate of Mussels di Napoli appetizer is 180.

Maybe you are among the hungry throngs of people who, when a friend suggests eating at Olive Garden, start to think about the basket filled with warm breadsticks, wrapped in a cloth napkin, and you salivate. And yet, when you actually eat said breadstick, you wonder why you were ever craving such a subpar food. You vow to never get fooled again. This scenario also applies to Burger King onion rings, Hostess twinkies and lots of other foods — they are bound to leave you disappointed that you ever craved and are made fatter by something that wasn't even delicious. Why in the world did you just eat that?

Well readers, after seeing on my Olive-Garden provided nutritional info that one breadstick is 150 calories, I went with the mussels and the minestrone and had a skim milk cappuccino for dessert, and me and my friend went for a half hour walk afterward gloating the whole way. I think we burned a couple extra calories from all the high-fives we gave each other along our walk.

We felt empowered to know what the calories were that we were eating and how to manage it all in our daily calorie goals, instead of willy-nilly eating what we thought we wanted but would be disappointed by later.

Counting calories and picking satisfying foods are two concepts many strongly recommend to find success on the path to weight loss.

Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien is one writer whose website and cookbooks focus on providing the reader with options to cut out calories and eat healthy. Whether itemizing which snacks are both tasty and healthy or which dessert is not to be skipped, Lillien focuses on meals that come in around 300 calories. That’s two Olive Garden breadsticks, mind you.

Lillien, who recently came to the to explain this and other concepts, says seek out foods that are exciting, delicious and low calorie. She says there are myriad options (such as steamed mussels in marinara).

“The best thing about it is that there are so many different types of foods to try,” she said. “I get bored with some food, so this is a good way to get creative and never give up looking for ways to be healthy.”

Sounds delicious.

So far, my breadstick-eschewing friend has lost 13 pounds and I have lost 10 in the last two months or so.

Also, be sure to check out our fellow participating "Patch Takes It Off" Patchers around the state: 

  1.  (Regional Editor Hank Kalet's posts also run on this site)
  2. Also, check out


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