“We’ll Have the Octopus”

When many people think about going on a diet, their initial reaction can be to cringe. In fact, when you say the word “diet” slowly enough in your own head, it sounds almost exactly like “self-denial”, “is that really an adult-sized portion?”, or “is it ‘cheat-night’ yet?”. Still, the benefits of changing one’s unhealthful eating habits are so numerous that hundreds of thousands of individuals make a conscious decision to change their diet every year. This is my year, and I, like most of us that have tried at one time or another to start eating a more healthful diet, eventually had to face the dreaded crucible of…Going Out To Eat. (insert the Wilhelm scream here).

octopus

My wife and I decided last night, when we got home from work at 7:00pm and realized that neither of us had actually hit the “Start” button on the dishwasher, that it is perfectly acceptable to go out to dinner on a Tuesday night. Truth be told, the weather here was too perfect last night to not sit outside and enjoy smells of an Italian cafe.

I’ve been nervous about going out to eat since I’ve started to change my eating habits to be smaller portions of healthier foods. This is mostly due to the fact that as I cook, I am so focused on where the ingredients are, where my knife blade is in relation to my thumb, what temperature the pan is at, how long the garlic has been on the heat, how long ago the chicken went in the oven, etc… that the anticipation does not have a chance to build the way that it does when you are sitting and waiting to be served, surrounded by other tables already having their meals. That does nothing but get me excited to eat, well, all of it!  Also, when you are handling your food and focusing on your recipe, you are conscious of making healthy decisions like not using too much oil, or not leaving that extra bit of fat on there, or not using that three-finger-pinch of salt when one will do…

All of that said, we decided to go out. After looking at all of the 50+ items on the menu, we decided to try the octopus as our appetizer.

As a relatively educated guess, the ingredients were as follows:

  • 1/2 cup octopus, boiled and rough chopped to about 1/4″ thick
  • 1 medium carrot, semi-fine chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, fine chopped
  • 2+ tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into two wedges
  • 3 tbsp black olive puree
  • salt / pepper to taste
  • 1 slice of nondescript bread soaked in another whole tbsp of EVOO and baked

First, let me say that there was waaaaay too much olive puree for me. The brine of the olives overpowered the relative subtlety of the rest of the ingredients. Nothing else really came through when you got more than 1/2 tsp of olive in a forkful. That said, if you were careful about what you got on your fork, this was delicious. But, was this something that was good for me? Let’s take a look:

Octopus, though many are unfamiliar with it, has an amazing flavor, and is also very nutritious. It contains Vitamins A and C, as well as some of the elusive B vitamins. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, watch out for the cholesterol if making this food a staple.

The avocado, though considered a “super-food”, should still be taken a what it is: a fat. Now, it’s a very healthy fat, and also provides a great amount of antioxidants. However, given the amount that was served, and paired with the amount of EVOO that was on this dish, it could be “too much of a good thing” if you are attempting to lose weight or keep those arteries clear.

The olive puree, though I do not know what chemicals (if any) were in it, I would not shy away from. Too many health benefits to avoid the olives.

There were not enough of the other ingredients to really take into consideration as being a health benefit or detriment, especially as my wife and I split the dish.

With the above, I wanted to give you a little insight into how I have been looking at my meals when we’ve gone out to eat. While I have never been one to count my calories, nor to measure my portions (This one time I did count out the 28 almonds that make up a service size and put them in a ziplock bag for snack… still haven’t regained my dignity), it is incredibly important to be conscious about what you are putting in your body. You can safely go out to dinner as long as you are not predisposed to think of “going out” as “cheating”. You can go to a restaurant and look for the best options for your health. This appetizer was not perfect, but was it a better choice than the fried calamari?

I may not live to be 100 years old, but that doesn’t mean my diet shouldn’t help me get as close to achieving that as possible. I love food too much to give up everything that is bad for me, but I look at it this way: the healthier I eat, the longer I could live, and the more time I’ll have to eat! It’s beautiful logic, isn’t it?

ENJOY!

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