Sweet Tomatoes, a family tradition

Even before I began following Weight Watcher’s Points Plus (PP+), one of my family’s FAVORITE places to eat was Sweet Tomatoes. Sunday afternoon at Sweet Tomatoes has become planned family tradition. It’s a tradition that our kids have grown to love, and as parents it’s a welcomed sight to have your kids excited to want to eat the vegetables that they get to choose themselves. 

Prior to October 2008, I enjoyed in abundance the delicious indulgences that Sweet Tomatoes offered. And believe me when I tell you that there are PLENTY!! There are healthy food options as well; delicious, healthy food options. Remember from my video-blog last week, "you must unlearn all you have learned." I knew that in order to be successful with my lifestyle change, I would have to UNLEARN how I ate at Sweet Tomatoes and LEARN a new way to be able to enjoy our favorite restaurant. It was quite the eye-opening experience to find out that my favorite focaccia pizza had 4PP+ for ONE PIECE. Guys, I could easily eat 8 pieces of focaccia pizza. Easily. That's 32 points, my entire days’ worth of points GONE with one food item.

Everything that they serve is fresh, made in house, BUT…some of my other “former life” favorites, like the Yankee Clipper Clam Chowder, is made with heavy whipping cream and packs a whopping 9PP+ for ONE CUP. Gulp, watch out for that one! Pizza and Chowder and I’m already at 41PP+ and still not done.

 Next up, some of Joan’s Broccoli Madness which uses up another 5PP+ for a ½ cup serving. So 3 items and I'm at 46PP+.

Wow. Time to stop focusing on the past and show what I eat NOW!

You need to PLAN what you are going to eat BEFORE you even go out. If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.

Plan on sticking with the fresh SIMPLE options at the salad bar.

Once I learned to bypass some of the high fat salad bar items and avoid the bakery area all together I realized how GREAT Sweet Tomatoes really is for someone that is actively watching the types of foods they put in to their body.

I always select a small sampling of the pre-made green salads. A SMALL sampling because again, they are covered in dressing and those points can add up quickly! Yesterday they offered a new one that I hadn’t tried yet…the Smoked Turkey & Spinach with almonds. It was so good!

My serving of this beauty set me back 3PP+ because I had a ½ cup serving instead of the full cup. I also had a ½ C of the Won Ton Chicken Happiness Salad, 4PP+ (actually probably less, b/c I didn’t take too many won ton noodles but I always err on the side of caution) and a ½ C of the Cesar Salad Asiago, 4PP+. So from the pre-made salads I was at 11 points. 11 points. I get 26 for the ENTIRE day. Next up…making my own salad!! I loaded up my plate with mixed field greens, spinach and romaine lettuce…0PP+ and then topped it with all my favorite veggies and added some protein in the form of chick peas ¼ C 2PP+, raisins ¼ C 3PP+ and sunflower seeds, 2TBSP 3PP+ and then topped it with some fat free honey mustard dressing, 2TBSP 1PP+. Altogether, 9 PP+ for my own salad creation. Total points for lunch: 20PP+.

 But here is the thing, since Sweet Tomatoes’ foods are healthy and nutrient packed, this meal kept me full for HOURS!!! We ate at 1:30pm, and I didn’t eat dinner until nearly 7pm. No munching, no snacking, no cravings. A totally different experience than my “previous life” where I probably ate close to 100PP+ values and was hungry just a short time later.

Yes, it is easy, super easy to over indulge when you go out to eat, but heck, it’s super easy to over indulge AT HOME! YOU have to be the one that controls what goes in your mouth. YOU have to be the one that makes the HEALTHY choices. And don’t forget you are modeling for your children. They are watching your every move and they learn from you. Teach them. That said, we do allow our trio to have a frozen yogurt dessert after they have finished all of their healthy foods first. It's all about moderation, folks!

Now on to some AMAZING things I learned that I didn’t know before yesterday; how much they give back to the local community.

·        Until the end of December, bring in a canned food item and receive 20% off your TOTAL CHECK!! If you are in the Tampa Bay area, the food items collected are being donated to Metropolitan Ministries which is in DESPERATE need of your help!

·        COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT!! I had no idea how involved MY Sweet Tomatoes (Carrollwood location) is in the community. They sponsor events for scouting, churches, provide a meeting room and lunch for seniors. They also give back to the schools. If your school contacts Sweet Tomatoes for a “family night” 15% of the proceeds raised at your Sweet Tomatoes on your night go BACK TO YOUR SCHOOL. How awesome is that???  I am so passing that information on to our PTA because I am sick of the Sonic and McDonalds Family night events. Yuck.

·        KEEPING IT LOCAL!! The produce at MY Sweet Tomatoes goes from field to plate in UNDER 24 hours. And the frozen yogurt is locally sourced, too! that makes me feel good that Sweet Tomatoes, while a national company, is keeping the money in the community where their stores are located.

And finally, here is a little tip for you guys….

This little red bowl is 6 ounces in size. A Sweet Tomatoes ladle is 3 ounces. Be creative!! You can use the red bowl to determine your portion sizes in the salad bar line, or frozen yogurt, anything. Once you know the size of an item you can use that as your measuring tool!!

So there you have it. You CAN eat healthy and STAY ON PLAN, if you are mindful of WHAT you are eating. Sweet Tomatoes offers ALL of its nutritional information online and if you are using etools (and if you aren’t you really should be, it’s super EASY), you can easily plug the information into your calculator to determine the PP+ of your food choices before you eat them!!  And if you aren’t using etools, and you happen to end up at Sweet Tomatoes without planning ahead, I bet if you ask the manager, he’ll print up the nutrition information for you. They really are that nice. And after seeing my photos the kids are already begging to head to our favorite place on Sunday. I will happily oblige.

Does your family have a favorite places to go out to eat? What is it? Do you plan ahead?

Color Day!!

In MAY The Color Run made an announcement that they would be bringing their race series to the Tampa area in December. I immediately signed up my entire clan and for the past month or so the anticipation was really building in our house!  I run a lot of races, but do 99% of them alone (or with friends.) But once a year, we do a family 5K. This was our 2012 Family 5K and we were EXCITED! And then bird flu hit our house hard Cry  By Thursday it was obvious that at least 2 of the kids weren't going to be able to do the run and since an adult needed to stay with them, and I am the runner in the house, I decided it would be dad that would stay home Wink Thankfully I was able to quickly and painlessly sell our 3 extra registrations (and kudos to the Color Run folks who would have refunded me my $$ if I had not been able to sell them.)

Ella was the one child that was well enough to go with me! I woke her up at 6am, we quickly got dressed and went out for breakfast. We arrived in St. Pete around 7:15am and had plans to meet up with some of the Tampa Bay Bloggers at 8am. Traffic was BAD! So even though we got there early, it took us a long time to park. We decided to consider today our Mommy/Ella date day!

We made it over to the Christmas Tree at Straub Park and found our friends and together we started over towards the start line!

The color was really pretty cool. It was cornstarch though in such large amounts it still did bother the eyes, nose, and throat. I was glad I had brought bandanas for me and Ella, though she didn't really wear hers too much. The 3 miles went FAST! There was only one water station and by the time we got there Ella was very thirsty! Going through the course I noticed more people walking than running, and some of those that were running were pretty aggressive, like they thought it was timed or something Wink

There were 4 color stations: Pink, Blue, Orange and Yellow. Orange was Ella's favorite station!

 

We had a great time walking the course with my friends and her two son's. It was really neat to see all the costumes, and how much fun everyone was having!

Ella and I both agreed that we would do it again!

We hung around for a little while and watched a "Color Bomb" go off and Ella played on the playground, but then we were hungry so we decided it was time to head home! We stopped at Evos for lunch (YUM!!) and made it home by 1pm! It was a wonderful 7 hours of quality time with my middle child.

I need to think about having a 5K date day with each of my kids in addition to the yearly Family 5K.

Do you have a race that you like to run together with your kids? Which one?

I'd also like to give a huge high 5 to my new race camera, the Panasonic DMC-TS20K. It's waterproof, dust proof, mud proof, and sweat proof, so expect a LOT more race day pics!!