Ditch Dining Out: 3 Restaurant-inspired Dinner Ideas That are Actually Good for You

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Ditch Dining Out: 3 Restaurant-inspired Dinner Ideas That are Actually Good for You

Do you love eating out, but loathe the fact that you can’t fully control what is actually in your food, the way it’s prepared and the often-hefty amount of calories your meal contains? Well, worry no more! Here are three healthy restaurant-inspired dinners that you can make at home, while controlling all of these factors—and it’s all at a fraction of the cost you would pay at a restaurant.

The Italian Restaurant Meal: Pasta and Meat Sauce

Cooking at homeThis is one of the most popular dishes and, although it may not be the least-healthy item on the menu, this comfort-food dish is packed with calories and too many carbohydrates, and devoid of vegetables and fiber.

The Italian-inspired Meal: Spaghetti Squash Primavera With Ground Turkey Breast, Tomato Sauce and Parmesan Cheese

Why we love it: It’s the lightened-up, high-fiber and nutrient-rich version of your typical pasta dish, but lacks much of the calories and the loads of carbs you’d get with the same-size portion. Plus, not only is it full of veggies, but the “pasta” itself is a vegetable so it’s packed with additional nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. And for a four-ounce serving the lean ground turkey breast has about one-third the calories and nearly half the fat of ground beef.

How to make it:
1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
2 cloves garlic
½ chopped bell pepper
¼ cup chopped onion
1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey breast
Low-fat, low-sodium tomato sauce
Parmesan cheese
Basil leaves (optional)

Prepare a medium-sized spaghetti squash by first washing it thoroughly, then using a sharp knife make several cuts throughout the squash. The cuts you are making will enable you to put the squash in the microwave without it exploding. Heat the squash in the microwave on high for about 10 to  15 minutes or until the squash is soft to the touch; let it stand for five minutes to finish steaming. When done, cut open "at the equator" (not lengthwise) and remove the seeds and pulp using tongs and an oven mitt because the squash will be hot. Separate the strands with a fork and put on plate just like you would pasta.

While the squash is in the microwave, sauté two cloves of garlic, ½ chopped bell pepper and ¼ cup chopped onion in 1-1/2 teaspoons of olive oil until the onion is browned; add one pound ground turkey breast, stirring it and allowing it to brown. Pour your favorite low-fat, low-sodium tomato sauce into the turkey, garlic and pepper mixture and serve the sauce and ground turkey breast over the spaghetti squash. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garnish with basil leaves, if desired.

For every cup you swap for the original version you’ll save more than 200 calories!

The Chinese Restaurant Meal: Sweet and Sour Chicken

The classic version of this dish is fried and loaded with calorie-dense sauce. Eat just one cup and you’re likely to consume as many as 700 calories.

The Chinese-inspired Restaurant Meal: Super Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken

Why we love it:It is so easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious, yet the fat is slashed by more than 75 percent, thanks to this no-fry version. Plus, we always bulk up the meal by adding broccoli, which makes this dish ultra-satisfying.

How to make it:
1 pound skinless chicken breast tenderloins or chicken breast (cut in strips)
Hot mustard
Duck sauce
Brown rice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread a thin layer of hot mustard on a large piece of tinfoil. Lay the chicken evenly across the tinfoil and then spread another thin layer of hot mustard on top of the chicken. Make sure the tinfoil is large enough that you can fold it up and close it at the top, making a covered packet. Close the packet and bake for 25 minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. While the chicken is in the oven, steam the broccoli and set it off to the side.

Once the chicken is done, remove the packet from the oven and carefully open it, as the steam coming out will be extremely hot. Brush a light layer of duck sauce over the chicken pieces—adding this sauce after rather than before cooking will help make the flavor stronger, while using less sauce and saving calories.

Serve with lots of steamed broccoli (or other veggies) and a small portion (1/2 to 1 cup) of cooked brown rice.

This recipe makes 4 servings, and each serving weighs in at only approximately 175 calories!

The Pizza Shop Meal: Pizza

The typical slice of pizza is not only greasy, but it’s also low in fiber and high in fat, carbs and calories.

The Pizza Shop-inspired Meal: Mini-Pizza Eggplant Rounds

Why we love it:Who doesn’t love pizza? Our version comes without much of the carbs, fat and calories, but it is packed with the veggies, extra nutrients and fiber that most meals lack.

How to make it:
1 eggplant
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese
Low-fat, low-sodium tomato sauce
Low-fat mozzarella, shredded
Black pepper or Italian seasoning

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice an eggplant into thin rounds, about ½ inch thick. With olive oild, lightly spray both a baking sheet and the eggplant rounds and arrange them on the baking tray. Heat the rounds until hot, which should take about five minutes. Once hot take them out and flip them over, sprinkling each round with a teaspoon of grated Parmesan before returning them to the oven for about five minutes or until the parmesan is melted. Take them out once again and add one tablespoon each of tomato sauce and shredded low-fat mozzarella on each eggplant round. Return the eggplant rounds to the oven and bake one final time for another five minutes or until cheese is bubbling. Season with black pepper or Italian seasoning and enjoy!

Good-bye carb-heavy dough—hello, low-calorie, antioxidant-packed fiber! Each round has just 60 calories!

The Nutrition TwinsThe Nutrition Twins Contributor

Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse (“Lyssie”) Lakatos, The Nutrition Twins®, share a passion to teach people how to eat healthfully and exercise so they'll have energy to live happy lives. The twins have been featured as nutrition experts on Good Morning America, Discovery Health, Fox News, NBC, Bravo, CBS, The Learning Channel, FitTV, Oxygen Network, and Fox & Friends. They co-wrote The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty, The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat and the 4-Week Plan to Drop A Size & Get Healthier with Simple Low Sodium Swaps. The twins are both ACE Certified Personal Trainers, and members of the American Dietetic Association and several Dietetic Practice Groups.

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