Fine Food For Fatties Finding Fitness
March 18, 2007 10:37 PM   Subscribe

My beloved and I are on diets, and we're sick of eating at crappy chain restaurants. Help us move on up...

We want to find a nice, romantic restaurant where we can have a healthy meal. Usually, we have a salad at the likes of California Pizza Kitchen, or a sandwich at Subway. Nicer places tend to have maybe a token salad, but it's hard to find a good meal that won't make us fat. Can anyone recommend a classy and healthy place near Sunnyvale, CA?

We have no dietary restrictions, but are shooting for a reasonably satisfying meal under 500 calories (to the extent that such a thing is possible).
posted by jewzilla to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Vegetarian sushi might fit the bill, though it may be a bit heavy on the rice. A couple avacado maki or shitaki maki and a kappa maki (cucumber) is usually enough to fill me up and is spicy, but I can't imagine it's too fattening. That and a nice bowl of miso soup or tea can be a nice change from salads or the steamed veggies.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:51 PM on March 18, 2007

Chick-Fil-A, 8-pack nuggets is 260, med fries is 350.
Check out and do an advanced search, you can find items at a ton of places that you'll like.

Also, when you go to the fancier places, you can order the meal to be half boxed before it's brought to the table. (That way you don't even see the other half, your brain doesn't hunger for it.) Half an order of pasta at these places is still PLENTY of food and will fit in your calories, and then you get the other half for lunch.
posted by jesirose at 10:56 PM on March 18, 2007

Ooh, sushi, good choice (and my favorite!). It made me wonder about sashimi (sushi without the rice -- just slices of raw fish), and a quick google reveals that even my most favoritest flavor, hamachi (yellowtail tuna), which is somewhat fatty, is 41 calories per serving. Intersperse that with some maguro (beautiful bright red tuna) and other less fatty fish, and you can eat a LOT of sushi for ~500 calories.
And yes, do the miso and the green tea. Miso is good for you!

Also, my mister points out that the way sushi is served at a good sushi bar is conducive to not eating too much -- it maximizes enjoyment and taste over a longer period of time, such that you savor what you're eating and also the longer waits between bites let you figure out if you really need more or not.

On preview, hey, interesting idea about the half boxed. I shall try that.
posted by librarina at 11:02 PM on March 18, 2007

Also, substitute "sashimi" for "sushi" everywhere in my previous comment. I tend -- incorrectly, I think -- to use "sushi" as the catch-all term with "sashimi" as a subset of sushi. But the reason I specified sashimi, as in without rice, is that the rice adds extra calories.
posted by librarina at 11:04 PM on March 18, 2007

Are you going to the Cali Pizza Kitchen off of University in Palo Alto? Pluto's is right near there--they have good customizable salads and other stuff. But I realize this isn't exactly what you're asking for...

When I lived there, we frequented Cibo on El Camino in Palo Alto. They have some good salads--it isn't quite classy, but it's a decent sit-down place that's nicer than CPK and the like.

I'm trying to think of more, but I'm a little stumped. My health-conscious friend usually dragged me to sushi and Thai places. :)
posted by mullacc at 11:16 PM on March 18, 2007

I don't know how close you are to San Francisco, but the people at chowhound know everything. IIRC, anyone can post a question without becoming a member and you will have lots and lots of raving food fanatics ready to answer your question.
posted by MadamM at 11:25 PM on March 18, 2007

A lot of sushi restaurants also have miso soup, which is a good way to start off a meal if you don't want to eat too much. Edamame is also a possible good dish for you.
posted by amtho at 11:35 PM on March 18, 2007

I've also recently made a substantial change in my eating - and besides limiting the calories, my excellent personal trainer has emphasized getting the calories from the right places - and white things (white bread, pasta, rice, etc.) are on the "avoid" list.

So I'm with librarina - go with sashimi rather than sushi. (There's Homma's Brown Rice Sushi in Palo Alto, but romantic it's not.)

Tamarine in Palo Alto has some interesting salads and fish dishes, and it's a lovely place.

In Sunnyvale, Il Postale looks nice and romantic. (I haven't been there myself.) Poking around the menu, it looks like there are some salads that would work, and maybe they could give you the grilled salmon without the sauce. (I just had a lovely grilled salmon at an Italian place in San Francisco last night.)

And you could always split a main course, if the mains are too big to keep within your calorie limit.
posted by jeri at 11:47 PM on March 18, 2007

Forgive my contrariness and please know how respectful I am that you are very serious about getting trim and healthy, but maybe as a RARE OPTION you could give yourself a "free night" at a favorite restaurant and eat anything you want, just for that one meal?
I give myself one "free" meal a week--- usually it is comfort food at a local diner--- as a sort of "safety valve" for my pretty rigorous regimen (that has let me keep off 130 pounds) as, (yes I'll fess up) a reward for my hard work and proud new bod.
It keeps me from obssessing about every little morsel during the rest of the week, and lets me relax without blaming and hating and shaming myself after.
There is lots of good advice above; there is value in my option too.
posted by Dizzy at 12:14 AM on March 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

IIRC, anyone can post a question without becoming a member and you will have lots and lots of raving food fanatics ready to answer your question.

You used to be able to, but for 9 months or so, Chowhound has required registration. It's pretty basic registration--email address, username you want to post under, password--but registration nonetheless.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:04 AM on March 19, 2007

This is in no way fine dining, but it might be helpful as an addition to your regular rotation. Applebee's lists the calorie content of their Weight Watchers meals on the menu, and many of them are less than 500 calories. I just think it's nice that there's someplace that actually gives you the calorie info up front.
posted by MsMolly at 7:13 AM on March 19, 2007

Chick-Fil-A, 8-pack nuggets is 260, med fries is 350.

I wouldn't recommend fried, nearly-nutritionless food to someone on a diet. There's more to eating than calories.
posted by mkultra at 7:23 AM on March 19, 2007

Just as a side note regarding Applebee's WW menu - it is horrible. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I am a WWer so I was delighted that they offered pre-pointed meals. However the shrimp dishes are fishy, the steak is gray, the vegetables microwaved, and it's all totally a waste of precious calories.

My opinion is that it's not worth wasting calories on if it's not delicious.

Because so few restaurants cook as healthfully as you would at home, the best option is to do your own cooking and learn some new cuisines to bring some excitement into your home-cooked meals. That way you can use a tool like Mastercook to calculate the Nutrition Info of your recipes and meals and you'll know what you're eating.

That said, as a Weight Watcher, sushi is my fallback going out food. Even with rice, it is far lower calorie than almost any other kind of food you can eat out and feels very indulgent to eat. It's delicious and beautiful and doesn't scream "diet" the way a piece of grilled salmon or chicken & some steamed veggies does.

And why bother even going out if you're going to eat grilled fish or chicken & steamed veggies?

Since being successful on my diet, I have cut down going out a lot. Maybe twice a month. But I no longer go to greaseball chains, and I never order off the "diet" menu. I get what I want, maybe make a few modifications (no cheese, sauce on the side, dressing on the side, etc), and eat half or less of my entree.

The half-boxed idea is a *great* way to stop yourself from eating more than what you want to. Restaurant portions are often 2-3x a normal serving. Keep that in mind.

However, my personal philosophy is that usually smaller, non-chain restaurants use fresher ingredients and rely far less on processed frozen ingredients. You're better off indulging occasionally at a really good restaurant in a sensible way (skip the bread basket, skip dessert, don't drink your calories, etc) than eating the Guiltless Grill from Chili's and being unsatisfied 3x a week.

A higher calorie meal every couple of weeks will *not* make you gain weight - in fact it may help keep your metabolism stoked so you keep losing weight. Sometimes my body surprises me and my weigh-ins will show that I've lost 3 lbs or more on weeks when I've had a rich meal. If you balance it out with healthy, clean eating, it should not be bad for your waistline.
posted by tastybrains at 8:25 AM on March 19, 2007

Another generic piece of advice is that if you go to a smaller more personal restaurant regularly, and cultivate a relationship with the staff, you may be able to get them to serve you stuff that's similar to what's on the menu but on the lighter side. Going into a nice restaurant and demanding menu changes immediately might not go very well, but if you consistently ask what the healthier options are, you can sometimes get to the point where they'll offer to make you half portions, or grill that fish instead of sauteeing it in butter, or skip steps like pouring melted butter all over your plate to make the food shiny (finishing with butter is one of the reasons why restaurant food is so high-cal (and also why restaurant food is so good)).
posted by jacquilynne at 8:41 AM on March 19, 2007

mkultra - I thought they were asking for more chain restaurants. Chick-Fil-A's food is better than most of those fast food places.
posted by jesirose at 8:49 AM on March 19, 2007

Two additional thoughts:

- A turkey burger without the bun shouldn't be hard to find. Skip the fries, get slaw.

- Palo Alto is close by. Stamford is there, so I imagine that there would be a bunch of restaurants catering to your needs there.
posted by mkultra at 9:08 AM on March 19, 2007

You've got a Whole Foods down the road in Cupertino, and one over in Mountain View too, see here.

Yeah, its technically a grocery store, but they're kind of fun to wander around, they usually have lots of samples out of cheeses, fruits, dips, cookies, etc., that you can nibble on as you browse, and they have lots of great low-cal selections (soups, sandwiches, a huge hot-foods / salad bar, sushi, etc.). Almost all the WF's I've been in have a nice dining area somewhere in the vicinity of the checkouts, and while its fairly casual as dining goes, I think the overall experience can be a bit romantic.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:49 AM on March 19, 2007

There are some reportedly decent izakayas in your general area: Saizo, Tanto, & Gochi.
Disclaimer: I haven't tried any of those, I'm just a big fan of Izakaya food.

I imagine you can get sashimi, grilled vegetables, some tofu thing and probably come away with a pretty healthy meal, although 500 calories may be something of a reach.
posted by juv3nal at 11:04 AM on March 19, 2007

It's been a while since I've lived in Silicon Valley, but there was a fairly decent vegetarian Chinese restaurant hereabouts.

Generally speaking, eating out is not a good way to lose weight, since many restaurants make the portion sizes too large and weigh the meal down with butter and cream.

If you're hankering for a burger, you might want to go to Clarke's also in Mountain View. They grill over charcoal on the spot and they offer turkey burgers and you can certainly avoid the bun. They have a lot of veggies to pile on at their condiment bar. If you can keep yourself away from the milkshakes and fries, you can have a decent enough meal there, healthwise.

There's also Fresh Choice, but again, you need to engage your willpower to avoid filling your plate with calories, you know, to make the cover price worth it.
posted by plinth at 12:00 PM on March 19, 2007

Damn, missed the "nice, romantic" part. My bad.
posted by plinth at 12:01 PM on March 19, 2007

You might try "Late for the Train" in Menlo Park. My recollection of it was a good, organic menu with very nice atmosphere.
posted by plinth at 12:02 PM on March 19, 2007

Honestly? Stop going to chain restaurants. If you go to a local restaurant, they might be just as fattening, but unlike a chain you're not going to see the stuff that's good for you pushed to the side and stuck in a "heart healthy" or other obnoxiously-titled section. I can get grilled salmon, wheat pasta with a pesto sauce, or a salad with a simple vinaigrette that was made in the back at a local place, where at a chain they'll double the portion size and dress it up with thick sauces that come full of preservatives from a distribution company.

I'm mostly saying this because of the tone of the thread so far (and I am going to suck at specific recommendations due to my lack of proximity), but seek out fine local dining. You're going to still get a share of buttery and oily sauces, but you're going to find places with more local products and produce. With my favorite restaurants, it seems like the more I pay, the less I get on my plate because what is there will be better prepared.

I say this as someone who was just taken out to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch at work. That's not fine dining by any reach of the imagination -- the "healthy" salads were by far more than anyone I was with could eat, and they have some of the thickest, over-seasoned sauces I've had. Good food is worth seeking out.
posted by mikeh at 12:11 PM on March 19, 2007

Italian is probably not on your list but I find the best salads seem to be at Italian restaurants.
posted by chairface at 1:44 PM on March 19, 2007

If you're on a diet, don't eat out. At McDonald's the salad is MORE calories than the big Mac. You simply don't know what you are eating when you eat out. Most restaurant food is rich, even the stuff you normally consider healthy.

For myself, I eat a light breakfast and lunch and then have a real meal, something like mashed potatoes, green beans, and chicken for dinner. Also I exercise. At night I might have a snack of popcorn. For me, this works, and I don't really feel like I am dieting at all.

There are lots of recipes, including under resources a ton of recipes for very low cal meals at It's important to mix it up, and diet in a way that you feel is reasonable.
posted by xammerboy at 2:22 PM on March 19, 2007

« Older Decompress After Disney?   |   Sixties Party Music Filter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.