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0 In Health

Delicious Restaurant Meals under 550 Calories!

Counting calories can be tricky. I will make plans, prepare, and be diligent… until the weekend. Those few days of social gatherings, outings, etc. can ruin a good week. I do not want my hard work Monday-Friday to be destroyed by a few poor choices.
One of the main ways I have learned to combat this dilemma is by learning to eat smart at restaurants. I want to enjoy my meal, be full, and not break my calorie bank… and with a little testing, here are some truly delicious meals UNDER 550 calories!


6 oz. Classic Sirloin* with Grilled Avocado (420 cal)

The menu describes this entree as:
“Seasoned & topped with spicy citrus-chile sauce, grilled avocado slices, garlic roasted tomatoes, cilantro. Served with fresco salad.”
If you’re getting chips and salsa, skip the avocado, and definitely drink water to keep the calories low! Mmmm. I love steak.



This dish with salmon is only 540 calories! While salmon is my favorite fish, if you are looking to cut even more from this meal, try the “Simply Grilled Tilapia with Fresh Mixed Veggies,” which comes in at a low 380! I highly suggest adding a side of rice to keep you fuller, but it is 250 calories. Alternatively, grilled asparagus for  60 calories!

Olive Garden

Guys, you have to watch it here. THOSE BREADSTICKS. Holy my goodness.
If you want to order real food, you’re going to have to skip the salad and breadsticks. OR you can order soup! The excellent Chicken & Gnocchi is 230, Minestrone is a low 110. There are even more options! Regardless, eating a salad (150 calories if you just eat 1 serving!) and soup would put you at 480. This way you can eat about 1/2 of a breadstick to meet your 550 goal, or go with the Minestrone soup and:
140 calories/breadstick
150 salad
110 soup
400~! You can have another breadstick. 🙂

Buffalo Wild Wings

You are pretty safe with a snack size of the classic wings, but that may not fill you up as much as…

Grilled Chicken Buffalitos for 500 calories!

Adding a side to this dish will most likely put you over the 550 mark, but not if you get the celery and carrot sticks!

The Cheesecake Factory

To be totally honest, there are not a lot of low-calorie options on the regular menu. It’s not my top pick when I am trying to lose weight, but when others want to go- it can be done!
The Skinnilicious menu has some great options.
For example, the Skinnylicious Grilled Turkey Burger is 500 calories. Veggies on the side would bring you up to 550.

Skinnylicious Chicken Soft Tacos are 500 calories as well!

Cracker Barrel

This is A’s favorite restaurant. I get so weird about it.. like the food is great and they have a ton of options, but I always fight him about going here? I need to work on this. It’s weird.
The brilliant thing about cracker barrel is the fresh vegetables- you can order just about anything you want, and the calorie saving potential is real! Did you know you can get their chicken tenders grilled instead of fried as well?
This is one of my favorite go-to’s: grilled chicken tenders with mixed vegetables and greens. (Watch those biscuits though!)
Another option is the “Lighter Twist” menu. I highly recommend the Apple Cider BBQ Chicken Breast for 290. You get 2 sides with this dish: Fresh steamed broccoli for 40 & whole kernel corn for 180 brings your meal to: 510! Try not to blow it on a biscuit (160 calories).

0 In Health

5 Filling Snacks Under 150 Calories

If you’re at all concerned with calories, then you perhaps find yourself searching for low-calorie foods… and later, after you’ve spent about enough time hungry, you start to search for filling foods that meet your calorie goals.

This has been my reality- My 3 pm hunger strike is REAL, and I’ve learned to combat it without breaking my day’s calories or having to run 10 miles to counteract it.

Snack #1: Fruit + Yogurt

Greek yogurt, like Dannon Light & Fit or Fage, can be low-calorie and filling! The mixed pack pictured above is an easy 80 calories!
Protein-filled snacks like  yogurt will definitely help you stay fuller longer, avoiding that junk-food scrambling binge we hit when healthy alternatives are not available.
I like to add frozen fruit to my yogurt, so I buy the Dannon Light & Fit vanilla, then add some thawed strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Total Calories for 3/4 Cup  (98 cal) + fruit (50 cal): 148 calories!


Snack #2: Tuna + Crackers

Tuna. Oh man… the filling power of this fish!! Seriously, a can of it is only 90 calories. THE ENTIRE CAN. Grab about 5-6 saltine crackers (typically ~10 calories each) and enjoy!

1 Can StarKist Tuna (90 cal) + 6 saltines (60 cal)= 150 calories!


Snack #3: Peanut Butter + Apple

Admittedly, I have a love-hate relationship with peanut butter. I love it, but I hate it’s calorie-packed-ness. Mainly because instead of eating the 1 tablespoon, I just use that spoon to eat out the jar… :/ Alternatively, grab a small apple (~50-60 calories) and eat 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter (105 cal for this brand) with it for a healthy, filling snack.

1 Small Apple (~50 calories) + 1 Tablespoon of PB (105)= 155 calories!


Snack #4: Almonds

Nutrient Packed Almonds can curb hunger pains and leave you satisfied. They are a tasty alternative to chips or other similarly crunchy snacks. These Blue Diamond Almonds are 170 calories for 28 nuts, so you can eat about 25 for 150 calories!


Snack #5: Fiber-filled Granola Bars

Fiber One bars are probably my favorite granola bars. With 140 calories and 9 grams of fiber- I can stay within my calorie goals AND get my chocolate fix. YUM.


Now, if you are reading this, you probably have some go-to low calorie snacks that keep you fueled through the day. Mind sharing? It is caring after all! I’d love to hear from you and add to my snacking repertoire!! Comment below!

0 In Health/ Rural Living

3 Simple Steps to Optimize your Morning Routine

3 Simple Steps to Optimize Your Morning Routine

Mornings. Some people love them. Irrational, ridiculous people- and while we may not understand them, we must admit that they exist… and try not to punch them in the face.
I admit, I am most productive in the mornings. I just don’t “enjoy” them. Coffee helps quite a bit.

That said, morning people or not, we can all use a little help with our morning routines.
Thinking about habits and the order in which we do normal tasks can open up possibilities for less stress, more time, and maybe even more sleep!

Here are 3 simple steps to optimize your morning routine:

1. Start the night before

Whether your goal is to be able to sleep later, get to work earlier, have more time to cook a healthy breakfast, to be less rushed in the mornings, or if you are just reading this for the sake of efficiency in life, take a moment to consider the task that takes the most time to accomplish.

Hair?     Outfit?     Meal prep?

Maybe you have to bottle-feed a litter of kittens before work, I have no idea- regardless, there is absolutely something you can do the NIGHT BEFORE to make your morning simpler.

For me, it’s coffee.

The evenings I forget to set the coffee pot on auto-brew (I have Cuisinart 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker with Hot Water System!) make my mornings a little less pleasant. Like, I am truly disappointed when I walk into the kitchen and that little green light isn’t on.

When I am really on top of things, I lay out the clothes I plan to wear the night before as well as making coffee. I am very indecisive about outfits, and my husband sleeps later than I do, so instead of tiptoeing around the bedroom with my cell-phone flashlight trying to find some article of clothing, planning an outfit and setting it aside the night before makes my morning that much faster! (and much less irritating.)

2. Optimizing the order

Even when I forget to make coffee, or I haven’t even thought about clothing for the next day, the order in which I do things MATTERS! For example, when I do forget the coffee, making it will be the very first thing I do after waking up. This is the beginning of optimizing tasks. Every task you must do in the morning takes some amount of time. Coffee brewing- 10 minutes, showering- 10 minutes, hair styling- 20 minutes, makeup- 10 minutes, etc.

So, combine tasks. For example, I start the coffee and shower while it brews. I wrap my wet hair up in a microfiber towel like one of these (from this beautiful amazon link that also makes me money to keep writing to you!), 2 Pack Hair Towel Wrap Turban Microfiber Drying Bath Shower Head Towel with Buttons, Quick Magic Dryer, Dry Hair Hat, Wrapped Bath Cap By Duomishu

so it will start drying while I eat breakfast. While I eat, I go over the day’s lessons or read work emails.
These are such simple things, but the time-saving possibilities are huge.
What is there in your morning routine that can be combined? Could you plan for dinner as you pack a lunch? Could you start a load of laundry while breakfast is cooking?
Considering your habits is the first step to making better decisions with your time.
Everyone’s routine is different, but with some thought, you can identify areas in your routine that are taking too much time and pick out opportunities to create more time.

3. Make a Checklist

My husband is a piddler. That’s what I tell him, at least. What piddler means to me, is that before we leave to go anywhere he thinks of SOME 10-minute task he simply must do right then. Does he always really need to? No. Not at all. My favorite example is a time we were checking out of an Airbnb in Hawaii (Um, do you like to save time? How about MONEY? Read this post about Hawaii!), and the lock on the door was set to reset at 12:30… i.e. we had to be out by then. Well, it’s 12:29 and A decides that he simply MUST examine this desk in the living area to see how it works and where all of the drawers are and.. oh what’s this compartment for?
We had been there for a week.

To combat piddlings, or just to give yourself a more confident exit in the morning- make a “leave” list. My list is:

Feed Cats
School Bag
School keys
Exercise Clothes

These are the last things I need to think about, gather or do before I can leave the house. Simply running down my list will 1. Remind me if there is something I have forgotten or 2. Give me a confident jolt that I have done everything I need to do. I leave home without wondering if there is something I have forgotten. I just get in the car, turn on the radio and sip coffee.
Optimizing your morning routine is a simple way to get a better start in the day, and better starts make for better endings.


    1. Be aware of time.  Set a timer if you need to.
    2. If you are one of those people that can hit the snooze 25 times, get one of these alarm clocks.
    3. Go to bed at a decent hour!