Last week, I decided to tackle the ever-so-scary “local restaurant without nutrition facts.” And to add an even greater challenge, my girlfriend decided we were going to go to one of our favorite Italian restaurants in St. Petersburg, FL – Bella Brava. A local Italian/foodie restaurant will have one of the most difficult menus to navigate, mostly because all the foods are dressed in exotic sauces and cheeses. True Italian food is healthy and delicious, letting the flavors of the foods speak for themselves. Americans have screwed up its authenticity with too much cheese and enormous portions. But holy smokes, is it tasty.
The natural instinct for me is to gravitate toward pasta. However, this restaurant’s menu didn’t indicate an option for a wheat-based pasta, so I avoided that refined-carb nutritional wasteland and headed for the seafood section. Salmon, I decided. Salmon is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s high in protein, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Bella Brava’s salmon is covered in a dijon glaze (read: glaze = sugar) and sprinkled with toasted pistachios. Like I said in my last post, know that you can custom order your food. If it’s on the menu, they can make it for you. I asked for the salmon simply grilled and cooked “dry.” That doesn’t mean the fish will be overcooked; it means that it will be cooked without oil and butter. Salmon is a naturally fatty fish, so it needs no additional oils.
Bella Brava’s sides include green beans with butter and garlic (which I only ate half of), which I ordered along with a house misticanza salad. When ordering a salad, look for greens that are deep in color. Iceburg lettuce may be low in calories, but it provides almost no nutritional value. The house misticanza contained romaine, radiccio, spinach, olives (more healthy fats), tomatoes, and a citrus vinagrette.
I need to have a heart-to-heart with all of my dudes out there. What I’m about to say will startle you, maybe even rattle you to the core: order your dressing on the side. “But my girlfriend does that!” Yes, she does, and look how fabulous she looks. Dressings are mostly oils and fats, and restaurants pile them on – at least two servings full. You don’t need that much. Order the dressing on the side and you control how much goes onto your food. I’m still to manly to dip my fork into the dressing before I dig into the salad like Nicole does, but I guarantee she’s saving over 100 calories for each restaurant salad she eats. I pour one to two tablespoons over my salad instead. Much more manly, much fewer calories.
- Eat only one serving of the fish. Four ounces, or the size of your iPhone or palm, is the size of one serving of meat.
- Request no butter on the green beans.
- Eat half the number of olives and cherry tomatoes
- Dip the tongs of your fork in the dressing before eating a bite of salad.
While local restaurants like this don’t normally have calorie counts, you can make an educated guess and plug it into an online calorie counter when you get home. So here goes my educated guess for this delicious and healthy meal:
Salmon, approx. 6oz. Calories: 350; Carbs: 0g; Fat: 21g; Protein: 38g.
Green beans, approx. 4oz, 20 beans Calories: 35; Carbs: 8g; Fat: 0g; Protein: 2g.
Butter, on green beans, approx. 1 tbsp Calories: 102; Carbs: 0g; Fat: 11.5g; Protein: 0g.
Mixed greens, approx 1 cup Calories: 10; Carbs: 2g; Fat: 0g; Protein: 0g.
Green olives with pits, 5 olives Calories: 72; Carbs: 2g; Fat: 8g; Protein: 0.5g.
Cherry tomatoes, 7 Calories: 28; Carbs: 5.6g; Fat: 0g; Protein: 2g.
Citrus vinagrette, approx 2 tbsp Calories: 70; Carbs: 7g; Fat: 5g; Protein: 0g.
Totals: Calories: 667; Carbs: 19g; Fat: 45.5; Protein: 42.5.