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Just because you're trying to be healthy and be careful of what passes through your mouth, it doesn't mean that you can't go out and enjoy some delicious food. Don't deprive yourself ALL the time, haha.

Today I went to dinner at California Pizza Kitchen with my mother to use a gift card we received from my aunty for Christmas. I go to CPK often enough that I decided that going to their website and printing out the nutritional info for their whole menu was important. After a lot of scrutiny, especially after their recent menu change, I've decided on what I believe are some "healthier yet tasty" options.

Just to let you know, I only have suggests for appetizers and pizzas. Why else go to CPK if you're not planning on getting a pizza?! Hence, that is the reason I will not be discussing sandwiches or pastas or whatever else....I've never really ordered any of those things. Besides, I've had a look at the nutritional info for all that stuff, and now I'm SURE that I won't be ordering them in the future. Lastly, I guess it's worth stating that although restaurant desserts are usually the most amazing tasting desserts ever, they're also usually NOT healthy or restrained or good for you...and CPK is no exception here. There is no suggestion for a dessert in the hopes that you just won't get one, hahaha. 

Note: All nutritional info listed is directly from CPK's website. Click on the link above to see it for yourself.


Appetizers

Salads, dips, soups, and other various appetizers~~~This is something you have to show up to a restaurant and really ask yourself if you need to eat it. People like the idea of appetizers, but that doesn't mean you NEED to eat one, especially if you're going to be ordering a real entree to follow. That being said, I know that when I go out with friends that they'd like to indulge in some pre-pizza deliciousness, and sometimes I don't want to be the person that says no, especially if I'm REALLY hungry. In some cases, eating the right appetizer to fill up a little is better than eating that extra slice of pizza. I picked one dip, one soup, and one salad to suggest. The fact that I don't mention anything else, like dumplings or wraps or whatever is because I just don't believe they're financially or nutritionally worth ordering.
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White Corn Guacamole + Chips
Dip Option: White Corn Guacamole & Tortilla Chips
Nutritional Info (for 1 order): 360 total Cal (kcal), 147 Cal (kcal) from fat, 16g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 501mg sodium, 48g total carbs, 3g sugar, 7g fiber, and 6g protein.

For those of you out there that normally like to order the Spinach Artichoke Dip (like I always used to), this would be the healthier alternative. This is actually a part of CPK's "new" Small Cravings Menu because, as the name implies, the items are served on a smaller scale than other items on their regular menu. It offers a the same tortilla chips (white and blue corn) that you would get with the Spinach Artichoke Dip, but you get a smaller portion of a healthier dip, starring white corn for some sweetness, black beans for protein, red bell peppers for brightness and added flavor, and avocado which is a source of healthy fats that do the body good. DON'T FORGET TO SHARE!! Not only because "Sharing is caring," but because you won't get too full before your real meal and you won't have to ingest all the mostly unnecessary calories/carbs on your own.

You might see this and think, "Geez, all those carbs..." and "That's not the healthiest appetizer!" Don't freak out; I'm definitely right there with you, but like I said earlier, "healthier yet tasty" was the goal, not "healthiest, most low-carb, low-fat, etc. option on the whole menu," and I'm still getting to the rest, patience.

Soup Option: Dakota Smashed Pea & Barley (Cup, not bowl)
Nutritional Info (Cup Serving): 170 total Cal (kcal), 1 Cal (kcal) from fat, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 677mg sodium, 32g total carbs, 2g sugar, 2g fiber, and 11g protein.

At a very unalarming 170 Calories (kcal), one cup of this soup is the proper serving for one person. A bowl sized serving is actually more than a person should really be eating, especially as an appetizer. If you're comparing this soup to the Sedona Tortilla soup (i.e. the only other soup they offer), you'll notice that this one has slightly more carbs. While, yes, there are more carbs, think about where it's mostly coming from: barley as opposed to fried tortilla strips. I think I'll stick with the barley, which adds more protein and helps to regulate blood glucose levels (as a whole-grain). Then there's the obvious fact that while one cup of the Sedona Tortilla has 17g of fat and 149 Cal from fat (out of the 270 Cal for the whole cup), the Smashed Pea & Barley has 0g of fat and only 1 Cal from fat. I think that says a lot right there.

Salad Option: Asparagus & Arugula Salad
Nutritional Info (1 order): 190 total Cal (kcal), 140 Cal (kcal) from fat, 16g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 2g cholesterol, 308mg sodium, 8g total carbs, 5g sugar, 2g fiber, an 4g protein.

So why this salad off the Small Cravings Menu instead of the whole variety of famous others on the rest of the menu? I direct you again to CPK's listing of nutritional information. If you look at the list of all their amazing sounding (and pretty freaking delicious) salads, you'll notice that even if you ordered a half salad, without any extras added on, there's not a single one under 330 Calories (the Chinese Chicken Salad), and that's not even counting the dressing!! If you remember to ask for the fat-free vinaigrette for a half salad, that's still an additional 110 Calories, for a total of 440. Even if you were to split the half salad with someone for a more correct portion size (and most people don't share, I know; I've watched people eat at CPK), that's still 220 Calories and a butt load of fat, sodium, and carbs (which for a lot of these salads, also means a lot of not healthy sugar sources) all before you've even had your entree.

Meanwhile, the Asparagus and Arugula Salad is a happy 190 Calories in comparison. While most of the other salads use an iceberg lettuce (read "crunchy water with calories") or some generic mixed greens, this salad employs arugula, which is a peppery tasting dark leafy green that's bursting with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. In other words, you're getting something worthwhile and helpful out of the calories you're ingesting. The asparagus is full of fiber, folate, vitamins, can help regulate blood glucose, etc. (see this Eating Well article I found to read more about the benefits). Also, I just like asparagus, hahahaha. The salad is also topped with better healthier toppings like almonds, sundried tomatoes and lemon vinaigrette instead of something like bacon, wonton strips, or ranch dressing.

Pizzas

PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA!!! As a child, my favorite food was pizza, and I never got tired of it. CPK feeds my pizza craving in a more gourmet, sophisticated, adult way, tee hee. To reiterate, I picked "healthier yet tasty" options of the available pizzas, not necessarily the absolute healthiest. In other words, while I realize that a lame cheese pizza is one of the healthiest options on the menu, it's just SO BORING in my mind that it's not worth mentioning....or eating. I'm not going to pay $15 or something for a regular old cheese or pepperoni pizza.

Knowing the right portion to eat is one of the important things to establish for yourself before you start eating. For example, all CPK pizzas are cut into 6 slices, and I normally only eat 2 slices. Eating 3 slices or more just makes me feel guilty later, and people really shouldn't be eating half of the pizza (or more) by themselves anyways. Leftovers just go home in a box so that I can enjoy the same deliciousness in more manageable portions (and then $15 can feed me for three meals instead of just one!).

Important Note: CHOOSE THE THIN CRUST!!! Or substitute for it if you have to because the difference in sugar definitely makes it worth having to pay the extra $1.50 they sometimes charge to make your pizza with a thin crust. An original crust has 112g total carbs and 18g sugar; the honey-wheat with whole grain crust has 107g total carbs, and 16g sugar; and the crispy thin crust has 92g total carbs BUT only 4g sugar (as well as only 2g total fat, and no saturated or trans fats).
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Habanero Carnitas Pizza with the spicy habanero salsa on the side
Habanero Carnitas
Nutritional Info (whole pizza with thin crust): 1000 total Cal (kcal), 346 Cal (kcal from fat), 39g total fat, 16g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 123mg cholesterol, 2058mg sodium, 98g total carbs, 5g sugar, 5g fiber, and 65g protein.

If you're a spicy food lover, this is the one for you! CPK graciously puts the spicy habanero salsa on the side in a little dish so you can add as much or as little as you want to your pizza. For example, I normally use less than a quarter of a spoon on a slice and still think it's a spicy, but my cousin who loves spicy food uses a whole spoonful every time (she's crazy...).

I normally try to avoid eating pork because of the notoriously fatty content. However, since this is slow-cooked and shredded instead of just being a slab of pork on a pizza crust, it just somehow doesn't seem as ominous, ahahaha. Plus, there's that saying, "Everything in moderation," so why not have a little pork every once in a while.


Wild Mushroom
Nutritional Info (whole pizza with thin crust, without chicken): 960 total Cal (kcal), 398 Cal (kcal from fat), 45g total fat, 19g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 94mg cholesterol, 1883mg sodium, 100g total carbs, 6g sugar, 5g fiber, and 41g protein.

Nutrition Info (whole pizza with thin crust & chicken): 1040 total Cal (kcal), 408 Cal (kcal from fat), 46g total fat, 19g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 137mg cholesterol, 2194mg sodium, 101g total carbs, 6g sugar, 5g fiber, and 55g protein.


"Cremini, Shiitake, Portobello, and white mushrooms with Mozzarella and wild mushroom walnut pesto" is the description they print. This is one of those pizzas on the menu where they offer to throw on some chicken if you're willing to pay an extra dollar or two; I normally order mine with the chicken. Don't get me wrong! The pizza without the chicken tastes great all on it's own, but from a nutritional value standpoint, there's not too much of a different between added the chicken or leaving it off. I just like getting more protein out of my food.

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Roasted Artichoke + Spinach pizza with chicken
Roasted Artichoke & Spinach
Nutritional Info (whole pizza without chicken): 960 total Cal (kcal), 344 Cal (kcal from fat), 38g total fat, 19g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 102mg cholesterol, 2313mg sodium, 107g total carbs, 6g sugar, 9g fiber, and 46g protein.

Nutritional Info (whole pizza with chicken): 1030 total Cal (kcal), 354 Cal (kcal from fat), 39g total fat, 19g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 145mg cholesterol, 2625mg sodium, 108g total carbs, 6g sugar, 9g fiber, and 60g protein.


"Oven roasted artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, sauteed spinach, Mozzarella and parmesan"~~simple but delicious. For those of you who, like me, enjoy(ed) the Spinach Artichoke Dip appetizer, this is essentially the same thing but in pizza form, and it's better nutritionally than dip and chips.

Just like the Wild Mushroom pizza, this one has the option to add chicken if you want (for a small fee), and just like the previous pizza, there isn't TOO much of a difference between getting the pizza with or without said chicken, nutritionally. Like I said, I like my protein, so I normally like to get the pizza with chicken.

Make better decisions and still enjoy food!




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