Hi Everybunny!

Thank you so much for your support about my thyroid health dilemma that I mentioned yesterday! I really appreciate all of the positive comments, vibes and stories from readers who have dealt with similar healthy issues. You guys are the best!

Today I am starting a new little feature for my blog! One of my brilliant little bunnies Lidia commented on a post with a fabulous question which turned into an awesome idea: RFFBT Restaurant Hop!

“I was wondering, is there anyway you could do a post about some healthy but tasty foods to eat when necessity dictates eating out?” –Lidia

I love hopping around to different restaurants and trying different foods, but I can say that one year ago, it was a very different story. It can be so hard to go out to eat while you are trying to lose weight and stick with your specific eating/diet plan. When I was about halfway through my weight loss journey, I was so obsessed with getting to my goal that I cut myself off all social events that included eating. I stopped going to my friend’s birthdays and started avoiding any sort of social situation that centered around restaurants and food. My obsession with dieting and my all or nothing mentality led to a pattern of disordered eating, which I still struggle with today. I remember going to a restaurant with my friend in Houston and I had so much anxiety over the entire dining situation (what should I order? Is everyone going to watch me eat?, Will the waiter judge me if I have a super complicated order? What if I give in to the bread basked and “ruin” all of my hard work?) that I started crying while reading the menu and had to leave. It was a terrible feeling and it seems so ridiculous when I think back on these moments, but to me, going out to restaurants was harder than final exams in college. It took me a lot of time to get through my fear of dining at restaurants, but I learned to use my Rabbit Food Pyramid guidelines at restaurants to help me make better choices and stay on track.

I really loved Lidia’s idea because I (obviously) know how challenging it can be to make healthy choices at a restaurant, so I want to give you guys some ideas of meals that you can order at popular chain restaurants so you can enjoy the experience and be stress free when it comes to deciding what to order!

My first RFFMBT Restaurant Hop location is: Panera Bread!
Panera has tons of locations and some great menu items, and with a few tweaks, you can have a perfectly balanced RFFMBT friendly meal!

Here is what I had at Panera last night!

My Order: 1 full Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, no chicken, no pecans, dressing on the side and a whole-wheat baguette. THAT WAS EASY! Now let me show you the breakdown!

The Rabbit Food Pyramid Breakdown
Produce: mixed field greens, romaine, red onions, vine-ripened tomatoes, and apple chips
Whole Grain: ½ whole-wheat baguette
Protein: Gorgonzola cheese
Plant Based Fat: 1 spoonful (eyeball 1 Tbsp) of white balsamic Fuji apple vinaigrette (made with olive oil)

For an even more detailed description of my swaps, let me break it down a little more for you:

The original Fuji Apple Chicken Salad comes with:
All-natural, antibiotic-free chicken, mixed field greens, romaine lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, pecans, Gorgonzola, apple chips & white balsamic apple vinaigrette. A side of potato chips, 1 apple, regular baguette or whole-wheat baguette.

If you look at the ingredients, they list 2 proteins (chicken and gorgonzola) and two plant based fats (pecans and white balsamic – contains olive oil). Now, take your pick between what you would like as your protein: chicken or Gorgonzola? Since I am mainly vegetarian I opted for the Gorgonzola cheese for my protein serving. Next, choose your plant based fat: Would you like pecans, or white balsamic dressing? Since they don’t have a fat free dressing option (such as plain balsamic vinegar) I opted to keep the dressing and leave the pecans behind. When adding your dressing, note the amount that they provide you with. Restaurants usually load healthy salads with calorie/fat bombs of dressing which make some salads just as fattening as a cheeseburger. Try to eyeball 1 Tbs of dressing for your salad or dip your fork full of salad into the dressing to avoid too much plant based fat. Also note the size of your whole-wheat baguette. Panera tends to be very generous with their baguette portions, after all it is called Panera BREAD! I usually cut my baguette in half and give the rest to a friend or box it up right away so I am not tempted.

I know that some people look for the nutritional information (calories, carb, fat, etc.), but I have found that counting calories is just not a great match for me and my past all or nothing eating style. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I stick to balanced portions from the 4 food groups in order to stay on track. If you need the nutritional value for this meal, you could always use the Nutrition Calculator on Panera’s official website.

For more tips on dining out, read my RFFMBT Dining Out Guide!
I cannot wait for my next Restaurant Hop! Suggestions for future restaurants are welcome!

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44 Responses so far.

  1. One trick that I use when eating salads with a higher fat dressing is to dip the fork in by itself and then grab your salad goodies. I find it gives the perfect amount of dressing (if it’s a thicker dressing) without using too much.

    Response from Catherine
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    • Great idea Catherine! Love that tip! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  2. Love the new feature, cant wait to read where you go next!

    Response from April
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    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  3. Chipotle??

    Response from Candace
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    • Chipotle is an excellent idea, Candace! I have gotten a few votes for that on Facebook!

      Response from Catherine
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  4. I was the same way a couple of years ago. I would obsess about what I ate and if I strayed, I would spend even more time in the gym even though I would work out 2.5 hours everyday. I’ve come a long way, but it’s still a struggle to not have the all or nothing attitude.

    Response from Larissa
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    • I completely understand, it can be so hard to get out of that mentality and I will admit that it is something I still struggle with. You are not alone! I’m so proud of you for your progress! Health & Happiness xo

      Response from Catherine
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  5. I second Chipotle! It’s one of my favorites and I’ve been avoiding it…

    Response from Vanessa
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    • Chipotle can definitely be made RFFMBT friendly! I think this might be my next Restaurant Hop! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  6. What about a sandwich shop — I have been avoiding them and wondered if it’s even possible to select something good. Jimmy John’s, Which Wich, Potbelly, Etc. :)

    Response from Shawn
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    • Love the sandwich shop idea! That would be a fun challenge :)

      Response from Catherine
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  7. I LOVE your site, I should say first of all. And, I LOVE this restaurant hopping idea! Here’s a list of my favorite places. I’d be excited to see your choices after hopping to one of them.

    Panda Express (My usual there is 1/2 steamed rice & 1/2 steamed veggies, string bean chicken and broccoli beef. I get the two sides with meat because alone one doesn’t seem to be a full 3oz serving of meat. I get 1/2 a rice portion because the whole portion seems like two servings. When counting calories and fat I know it’s a good eating out choice but I don’t think it converts well to your balanced RFFMBT pyramid. I’d consider this combo 1 grain (wish it were brown rice though), 1 protein, 2 veggie produce.) I’m missing a plant bassed fat. Hmmm??? I might need to switch to a side with nuts. I’d like to see a combo you put together for my ideas. Other sides I’ve had are mushroom chicken and peppercorn shrimp. We (myself, hubby, and 3 kiddos) eat out maybe only 2x a week but Panda is usually one place for sure. If we eat it at home I might even microwave a pkg of Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice for us and then get everyone extra veggies instead of their white rice…and we certainly wouldn’t have their fried rice ever.

    Baja Fresh
    Rubios
    On the Border
    Any Mexican restaurant

    (We love Mexican food and I find it easiest to stay on a healthy plan at a Mexican restaurant. Common things I get are fajitas, corn tortillas, avocados, salads with grilled meat…or just cheese, or corn tortilla tacos with veggie salad.)

    Starbucks (I love Frap lites occasionally. I also like their reduced fat turkey bacon sandwich (okay, but I guess it is a whopping 3 proteins and 2 grains, is it?), and their Feta Spinach (and egg white) wrap (1 grain, 2 protein, maybe 1/4 produce). So I’m not quite balanced there. I’ve had oatmeal here while traveling. Curious to see if you could put together a breakfast or lunch.

    Thanks for sharing your restaurant tips and your personal experiences. I’m so glad to hear you’re healing and overcoming the anxiety of being put into a tempting situation. I always compare food addiction to alcoholism. If you were a recovering alcoholic you would go to a bar or have friends over to watch them get wasted. Yet, people don’t usually view the same addictive temptations with food in the same way. It is best to steer clear of tempting situations till you build up enough resistance. I go through stages of higher or lower resistance. I can sit at a Mexican restaurant and eat healthy and not eat a single chip or I might have some chips…usually depending on where my resistance is. I still won’t order just anything like enchiladas and am quick to get the next meal on track. Once in a blue moon I might just get an enchilada. It’s okay. I’ve had weeks of flawless food perfection and hours countless hours of workout and might still lose only an ounce. Then, the week of an extremely rare enchilada I might lose more. Generally I see all choices reflecting on the scale but it’s not to say 1 meal or 1 treat will erase all progress. For me, it’s more the mental struggle that one meal doesn’t mean failire so have fail #2 and #3. I am constantly reinforcing my way of thinking that backslides or a meal off track can be just that and not what directs the future.

    I’ve lost 93 lbs and have about the same to go still. Hoping your method of counting food groups will help me get my mind off numbers (calories, fat…) So far this week, I’m having way more produce like I used to. Yayyy!!

    Thanks again!!

    Response from Sarah
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    • Hi Sarah! Your restaurant suggestions are great and I agree with so many of them! I cannot wait to do some more Restaurant Hops with everyone’s ideas! Congratulations on losing 93lbs! I am SOOO proud of you, that is truly amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your story with me, I really appreciate it and can most definitely relate! I am so proud of you and am so happy you found my blog! I’m really excited you are here and cannot wait to hear about your progress! Health & Happiness xo

      Response from Catherine
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  8. Hey Catherine!

    Two things. First, I completely second the Chipotle idea. One just opened near me a few weeks ago, and I’ve been lusting for a burrito like you wouldn’t believe. Secondly, can you PLEASE tell me where you got the champagne straw in your post on juicing? I’ve been searching high and low for an (affordable) set, and haven’t found anything so far. Also, I’m planning on setting up my blog this weekend after putting it off FOREVER. Can we healthy blogging buddies? I’m not as far in my healthy eating/weight loss journey as you are, but it always helps to have to an e-friend to share it with. I understand if you don’t. Thanks!

    Response from Jenn
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    • Hi Jenn! I bought the stainless steel straw on Amazon (“Endurance Stainless Steel Drink Straws”)! They are $9.95 + shipping, and I absolutely love them! I clean them with pipe cleaners so they stay in great condition :) I cannot wait for you to launch your blog, you have to send me the link once you get it going, I cannot wait! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  9. I am SO glad you did this salad. This is my new addiction at Panera Bread. I usually just get half w/ a decent sandwich or soup because the calories can be out of this world but I’m definitely trying this next time. Great idea, choose your protein and your fat! Definitely using this concept for my meals from now on.

    Response from Amanda
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    • I’m so glad this was helpful to you Amanda! :) xo

      Response from Catherine
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  10. Keeping this short and sweet… LOVE everything about this post :)

    Response from Hilary
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    • Thanks Hilary! So glad you loved it! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  11. Loved the blog and i have some questions how can i contact you??

    Response from Andreia
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    • Hi Andreia! Due to an extremely high volume of messages, I am no longer accepting personal emails, but you can ask questions in comments, or on Twitter or Facebook! Health & Happiness xo

      Response from Catherine
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  12. Chipotle… Trying to think of eateries that are in various states!

    Response from Julie dionne
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    • Chipotle is definitely on my list! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  13. Love your idea of restaurant hopping! My friends often think I can’t go out to eat with them because I’m a picky eater, when it’s far from that! I love food but know how to make nutritious choices. Can’t wait to see to the places you will stop and eat!

    Response from Diana
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    • Thanks Diana! I’m excited to do some more Restaurant Hops :) xo

      Response from Catherine
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  14. I really love your web site
    Good sunday
    http://blog.justwm.com/

    Response from Samantha JUSTWM
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  15. I love your blog and have been following for a while. I was even inspired enough to take up a vegetarian{ish} lifestyle with a focus on eating more unprocessed foods. I’ve been happily meat free for about 5 weeks now and have never felt better. anyways I think the restaurant hopping is wonderful- I have no problem being meat free at home but adapting it while out has been the biggest challenge.

    Response from Stephanie McCall
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    • That’s wonderful Stephanie! I’m so happy you are loving your new veggie inspired lifestyle! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  16. Hi! Just found your blog today and I think it’s great! Just to let you know, the apple chips in that salad are made with corn syrup, so I would personally leave them off my salad since they are adding empty calories. Look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. Cheers!

    Response from Rose
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    • Hi Rose! Thanks for the apple chip tip! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  17. Love this… I go back & forth with my diet but when I can motivate myself to eat healthy I try to stick to vegan/vegetarian options. I’ve always been scared of Panera because I’ve heard their sandwiches/panini’s have more calories than a Big Mac but that Apple Fuji Salad is an awesome idea. I usually get the Greek Salad and a soup like black bean or french onion (which I know has butter in it but it’s sooooo yum) :) Thanks for the great idea!!!

    Jen @ RealBestRecipe.com

    Response from Real Best Recipe
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    • So glad you love the Restaurant Hop idea! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  18. Hi Catherine!
    I discovered your blog several weeks ago. I am French, living in Paris so apologies for my approximative english…
    I really need to say/share something to you and to people reading this blog.
    I read your story with your diet plan-impressive-and totally remembered my own. I used to live EXACTLY the same as you, I mean Huge weight loss, in a quite short period of time. Then becoming obssesed and scared with food. Obessesed with “eating healthy”, scared to go out or calculate what I would eat in advance. Obessed to do sport, obssesed not to put on weight, obssesed with my body. Later (still now) medical problems and an eating disorder that is currently totally ruining my life.
    I see a psychologist now and that helps me a lot. Life means living and not thinking about what you must eat everytime. Eating should be a natural thing, not following a plan. Pleasure is life! and not being obssesed with your body because people who likes you will do it for what you ARE, and nevermind you have 5 kilos more!
    I confesse that it is really difficult to change its mind on that matter when you have done an important diet ( that may bring you this disorder…). Just think about your futur children. My mother has the same problem, is obssesed with her body and eating wekk, has never wanted to consult a doctor and so gave me her problem that I want to stop now in order not to transmit it afterwards to my own children and cause I want to LIVE. Food is really not the essential. I feel through this blog that, ok you eat healthy, but you seem really really obssesed with nutrient, quantity, and your big weight loss makes me wonder how you feel now. This last post confirms that you still have some trouble and believe me it will NEVER stop unless starting a therapy. It is not a shame. Whatever healthy food you eat, good sport you do, your body will force you through eating disorder. It could become a real nightmare now or later and even become worst. As we can share opinions on this blog, I think appropriate to share some advice through my own experience.

    Xo.

    PS: am opened to share about this subject if someone want to. Just email me: dreamachine78@hotmail.fr

    Response from Julie
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    • Hi Julie! I from Los Angeles! I love that I have so many readers in other countries :)! It’s so fun! Thank you so much for sharing your story with me and my readers! It is important for everyone to live life and not be worried about food all of the time! I focus on nutrient rich foods to help remind others to each whole and natural foods instead of packaged snacks and provide each balanced recipes for others who are trying to lose or maintain their weight. I really appreciate your story and am so happy that you found my blog! Health & Happiness xo

      Response from Catherine
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  19. Thank you SO much for taking my suggestion! I love that it’s going to be a feature on your blog! I can’t wait to read more and I second the Chipotle request! :D

    Response from Lidia
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    • Aww so happy that you saw the post Lidia! Your idea was fantastic and everyone is so excited! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  20. I found your website the other day on pinterest and I am SO happy that I did!! You have such an inspiring story that I relate to in many ways, and it is so good to hear someone who has/is going through the same things! Keep up the great work- Anna

    Response from Anna
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    • Aww I am so happy that you found my blog Anna! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  21. I really like this new feature! It is definitely helpful for myself seeing as I struggle to make good decisions when I go out to eat.

    Response from Sky
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    • So glad you are loving the new Restaurant Hop, Sky! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  22. I know this isn’t a restaurant, but what about frozen meals? There are some days I absolutely do not feel like cooking dinner and would love to just pop a meal into the microwave, but I’m always scared of the high amount of sodium and sugar!

    Response from Randi
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    • Hi Randi! I don’t usually eat frozen meals but that would be an interesting topic to address and discuss! I have seen some organize brand like “Amy’s” that claim to have healthier frozen meals. I should investigate! Thanks for the idea! xo

      Response from Catherine
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  23. I also meant to add that I love this post!

    Response from Randi
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