Happy New Year!

By Carmen Schmidt |

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The new ninth season episodes are here. We hope you've enjoyed revisiting the first six episodes of our ninth season over the holidays.

Tonight, Check, Please! features fancy pizza, affordable Asian cuisine, and barbeque flavors to die for. O.K., I know what you're thinking, "What are you doing to me?" Don't we know it's just seven days after you made that New Year's resolution! How are you supposed to loose weight, save money, or live a greener lifestyle when we keep showing you tempting deliciousness every Friday evening? Don't worry, I've got you covered.

So, maybe your New Year's resolution was to loose some extra pounds. It's not always easy to count calories when you go out to eat. But, that shouldn't keep you from enjoying a satisfying. Many restaurants will offer low-calorie dishes. You can also order your favorite dish, with slight alternations. Ask for your salad dressing on the side, that way you can control the amount you add to your salad. A little bit of a good flavor can go a long way. Look for items on the menu that are baked or broiled rather than fried. A good server can help you make a perfect selection as well. Set the bread basket aside, and focus your attention on the protein and vegetables in your dish. Weight loss experts always say portion size is very important. Enjoy that delicious gourmet pizza at A Mano... just limit the number of slices you have. You may even consider sharing the dessert. Easier said than done, but it is worth a try. And most of all, know when it is time to push away from the table. Ask yourself, am I eating because this tastes delicious, or because I'm still hungry? Think of it this way, if you leave something on your plate, you'll get to enjoy the textures and flavors of that great meal again for lunch when take advantage of the ubiquitous doggy bag!

Each cuisine has its fatty, rich foods. However, if you are trying to avoid certain rich, gravy filled, or breaded dishes, consider an Asian cuisine with lighter menu choices. Our guest reviewers loved Tampopo, a sushi restaurant that was described as a hidden gem. Fresh ingredients are key to a healthy and delicious meal. Order items that are prepared in lighter broths and where the focus is on spices rather than breading or gravies to provide flavor. Keep in mind that noodles and rice are carbohydrates that convert to sugars and stay with you longer, so limit those portions. Again, our guest reviewers all raved about the large portions at Tampopo, so remember to get that take-home bag.

Now, maybe your resolution was to save money. Let's face-it. Going out to eat is not the cheapest thing you can do. Many people have limited the number of times a week or month they go out to eat. But, there are still those special occasions - girls' nights out, date nights, and evenings when you just don't want to cook. To reduce the bottom line on your restaurant check, be choosey about the restaurant. As you have seen on previous episodes of Check, Please! there are plenty of restaurants in the Chicago area offering a gourmet meal at a great price. Your resolution to save money may be your ticket to a new culinary adventure. Visit our website when you're choosing a restaurant, and don't forget to look at the tab per person. We list our tab per person before drinks. So another way to keep that tab down is to be selective about your drinks as well. Find restaurants that are BYOB or that will sell you a glass of wine by the glass, rather than by the bottle.

Finally, I've learned that one of the most popular resolutions for 2010 is to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. This can apply to going out to eat as well. Along with changing your light bulbs, using public transportation, printing less of what you see online, or recycling, consider where the food on the menu comes from. Many of the chef/owners we have interviewed for Check, Please! are making a conscious effort to choose locally-grown foods and create seasonal menus to accommodate local harvests. It's a real win-win for you, our environment, and local economy when you choose to frequent these eateries. You'll get the freshest and healthiest ingredients, help to limit carbon emissions, and create sustainable businesses for local farmers and organic growers. Visit restaurant websites to learn more about their menu or ask your server about the restaurant's policy or mission. Supporting restaurateurs with an ecological conscious is an important part of a "greener" lifestyle.

Here's to a happy and healthy New Year and resolution season!

Carmen M. Schmidt
Associate Producer, Check, Please!

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