French fries

As someone who eats out a lot, I appreciate Marlene Koch’s new cookbook, “Eat What You Love: Restaurant Favorites.” It’s helpful and interesting. And it offers tools — both new to me and ones I’ve already learned — about staying at a healthy weight.

Koch is a dietitian and culinary expert, and her recent cookbook is the latest in the “Eat What You Love” series. In this title, she takes delicious creamy, cheesy, gooey, sweet or favorite fried foods from popular restaurants such as Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang’s and McDonald’s and turns them into dreamy, calorie-friendly creations.

To reduce calories, she slashed sugar, fat and sodium, the common culprits of restaurant fare. Yes, all of that adds flavor, but she uses replacements that keep the recipes tasting good.

In her cookbook, she notes results of a Boston University study, which analyzed foods from 157 restaurants and revealed the average calorie counts of entrees of the most popular ethnic cuisines. Get a load of this: Italian entrees average 1,755 calories; American-style meals, 1,494 calories; Chinese, 1,474 calories; and Mexican, 1,324 calories. And that was without a margarita or chips. Keep in mind, the U.S. Department of Agriculture uses 2,000 calories as the daily requirement target for most adults.

“What’s most important, however, especially when studying a food label or restaurant nutrition guide, is to know how many calories you require each day,” she writes.

You can get a personalized estimate of your caloric needs by going to marlenekoch.com, clicking on Nutrition Tools, and then on Calculators; scroll down to Personalized Calorie Calculator.

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She offers these tips for dining out:

• Select restaurants wisely. Use online menus and nutritional information to plan where to eat and what to order.

• Rethink your drink. Go for low- or zero-calorie beverages.

• Ditch bread and chips. These pitfalls lead to mindless eating.

• Start your meal with a simple salad or broth-based soup. It will take the edge off hunger before you dive into the entrée.

• Order a healthy appetizer instead of an entrée.

• Share an entrée, or take half of it home. Ask for a box when the food is served, and put half of it in there before starting the meal.

• Opt for grilled, steamed or broiled entrees.

• Balance your meal with healthy sides — plain baked potato, steamed veggies or a side salad.

• Enjoy dessert at home. You’ll save money, and by the time you get home you may have changed your mind.

Contact the writer: 636-0271.

contact the writer: 636-0271.

Food editor

Food writer for features life section and columnist for Go! Entertainment - Table Talk column

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