Healthy dining tips for your next evening out

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People often ask me how I can stay somewhat slim as a food critic and chef. Well, it isn't easy folks. In fact, I put on a whopping 24 pounds in the last three years. So, going on the Paleo eating plan has been an eye opener for me. First, I took a month off of restaurant reviews. Second, I started exercising more, drinking a lot more water, and cut down wine to two glasses a week -- but oh they are fabulous wines that I truly enjoy. (Not that I was ever a big drinker, but four glasses of wine a week adds up.)

I started asking restaurants to hold the salt and butter, and hold that darn salad dressing. Sometimes salads can be more calories than a cheeseburger and fries. (Beware of some of the salads at Cheesecake Factory, even though I do like them!)

There are so many options in Sarasota now. Think ahead, check menus online, and call the chef days in advance of special occasions -- but remember that salt, fat and sugar are what make restaurant meals so tasty.

Healthy eating tips:

Look at menus online and be objective.

As much as I LOVE pancakes, they are one of the worse things to eat. If you must share a small stack with other people and pour the syrup on the side. If you poor it over the top of the stack, the syrup absorbs and you end up using triple the amount.

Avoid things like bang-bang shrimp. Instead enjoy the rare sliced tuna appetizer -- but avoid too much soy.

Shrimp cocktail is a good option, but go light on the dipping sauce. Most have a ketchup or chili sauce base that has sugar.

Order grass fed meats when you can, and get those fish tacos grilled instead of fried. Eat one in the flour tortilla and take the other out of the carb vessel. Add extra cabbage for the crunch.

Keep bags of unsalted raw nuts with you in small bags. Trader Joe's is the best place for inexpensive options.

Avoid fruity drinks like Sangria.

Here are some suggestions as you dine around town:

Cosimo's gluten free pasta and gluten free pizza. They are happy to advise you on healthy options and lower carb dishes.

Café Americano has a new Paleo power breakfast. 5 ounce grilled sirloin steak with 2 egg whites, sliced avocado and tomatoes. Plus, let's face it: They have the best downtown dining corner for breakfast. Think of it as being on a European vacation, only you never left Paradise.

If there is a Bison burger option without the bread (like at Square 1 Burgers) go for it! If you must have the fries, do sweet potato! Use mustard instead of ketchup or mayo.

New American fish menu at eat here -- order couscous salad and grilled fish of the day, four offerings or the grilled fresh fish tacos.

Taste of Asia on 41 S. offers a great vegan menu, or try the Sandstorm Basa steamed with a side order of Cauliflower rice.

Jalea is open where Sangria once was, and with fresh delicious ceviche it's always an excellent choice.

J-pan serves fresh sushi and a terrific low-carb roll menu. Try the salmon wrapped with cucumber and lettuce. Oh so light and fresh.

Carmel Café offers smaller plates and gluten free options. Their edamame hummus is so good - and they even saut←ed my veggies without oil the other night. Another plus! Mediterranean is the way to eat.

Culinary Director

As the Culinary Director for ABC 7, I whip up cooking segments on ABC 7 News at Noon, along with recipes, cooking tips, reviews and great food finds on MySuncoast Dining at