Tag Archives: Tips

Healthy Holiday Travel Tips: Food for planes, trains, road trips… :)

The holidays are here! And for a lot of folks that means great food, no work, seeing family, and LOTS of travel! Because of that, I was inspired to write a post about tips on healthy snacks/food to eat while you’re traveling. 🙂 So here are some of my suggestions on how to avoid eating the overpriced, unhealthy, fast-food at airports when you can, and how to navigate those food courts when they’re your only option! Hope this is helpful to all of you in your travels, and I hope everyone has an amazing holiday!!

To start, I’d like to introduce my Healthy Holiday Travel Cardinal Rule: ALWAYS pack food and take it with you to the airport if you can! Don’t worry – if you can’t it’s not a big deal – you can still find healthy options at the airport. But if you can, this is a great way to guarantee your healthy meals and save money too! Here are some of my favorite travel snacks/mini-meals that I always pack for my trips 🙂

Peanut or Almond Butter Sandwiches on Sprouted Wheat Bread with Blueberry Preserves: This is a great one-dish meal that doesn’t spoil, travels well and is super easy/fast to make!

http://anotherbookjunkie.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html

Sandwich on sprouted grain bread made from 2 Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges, 1 roma tomato (sliced), salt & pepper: another great go-to sandwich – slightly more perishable than the PBJ, but a good option for a shorter flight or if you know you’ll be eating the sandwich within a few hours of boarding the plane!

Fresh fruit: apples, bananas, berries: Any fruits that are easy to eat, not too messy and don’t get squished easily are perfect options. I usually stick to Fuji Apples because they’re high in fiber and filling as a snack – and they don’t spoil and don’t get squished!

http://thedavidwilsonproject.com/homemade-apple-sauce-rock/

Steamed Mixed Vegetables, seasoned with salt & curry powder or salt & freshly ground black pepper: This is a great snack and a way to make sure you’re eating veggies when you travel! I like to steam the veggies in the microwave, season them, and pack them in a disposable plastic container to take on the plane.

Packets of instant oatmeal (plain), or your favorite healthy cereals (I like Kashi Heart to Heart and Barbara’s Puffins Original) in a ziploc bag: This can be a great snack or breakfast – you should be able to find boiling water in any airport (or even on an airplane) to cook the oatmeal, or low fat milk to eat the cereal with.

http://livinlifeinthefablane.blogspot.com/2010/03/heart-to-heart-kashi-review.html

Lara Bars or other low glycemic protein bars (like dried fruit/nut bars): A great 150-200 calorie snack with at least 3-4g fiber and 3-4g protein!

Trail Mix: Make sure you get the kind without any added oils or sugar (I like a combination of raw cashews, raw walnuts, raw almonds and raisins in the “Go Raw” Trex Mix from Trader Joe’s). And I like to separate them out into mini portion sizes (1/4 cup each).

Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds: Great for satisfying your sweet tooth, with a bit of protein, fiber and an anti-oxidant punch!

http://www.dark-chocolate-life.com/dark-chocolate-almonds.html

Now, if you aren’t able to pack food and have to rely on the maze of fast food options at the airport – here is my list of healthier restaurants at the airport!

  • Subway is a great pick (choose wheat bread, tons of veggies on your sandwich and go easy on the mayo/oil)
  • Starbucks is another good one – a non-fat tall latte has only 90 calories and tons of protein, and Starbucks also offers healthy meals – e.g. oatmeal for breakfast, whole grain wraps/sandwiches, etc.
  • Delis that allow you to customize your sandwiches are great – think of them as a good alternative to Subway
  • Au Bon Pain can be found at many airports, and they have customizeable sandwiches (think the Subway strategy here) or great salads / soups too
  • Taco Bell – opt for the bean burrito or anything on the “Fresco” menu
  • Mexican Restaurants like La Salsa or Baja Fresh have great options – look for soft corn tacos, or the “bowl” option filled with black beans, veggies, salsa for a satisfying treat (try to limit the sour cream/guac!)
  • Even McDonald’s and Burger King have been offering a few healthy options – you can get apple slices and salads (make sure to order the dressing on the side and use it very sparingly)
  • Some airports have all natural frozen yogurt – like Red Mango or Pinkberry. The small size of this with fruit mix-ins are a great option for a healthy snack or dessert!

I hope these tips and tricks are helpful for you during your holiday travels. This will be my last blog post until after the holidays – so before I sign off, I’d just like to congratulate Anu who won my last giveaway!

Anu – just send me your mailing address and your chocolates should arrive soon! And with that, I’d just like to wish everyone a very happy holiday and a great new years!! Happy eating, and I’ll see all of you in 2011! 🙂


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Great Snack: Two Easy Dips with Pita Chips!

So as most of you know, I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s 🙂 This past weekend when I was grocery shopping, I came across two dips that I thought would make a great snack: The Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus Dip, and The Masala Lentil Dip. I’ve had a bunch of different Trader Joe’s hummus dips before, but I had never tried the organic version. The organic version actually has better nutritional information than the regular version (20 fewer calories per serving, with the same amount of fiber & protein). And I’m pretty sure the Masala Lentil Dip is new because I hadn’t seen it before! (It also has good nutritional value – only 60 calories for 2 Tbsp, and a good amount of fiber & protein!)  Both were fabulous, and I served them with home made Pita Chips (recipe below). But you can also eat them with sliced veggies – e.g. carrot sticks, celery, broccoli, zucchini, etc., and you can also combine them with a cheese plate if you pick your cheeses wisely 🙂

Here’s the Organic Hummus Dip…

And here’s the Masala Lentil Dip…

And here’s the Pita Chips Recipe!!

Note: I like making Pita Chips at home rather than buying the pre-made, packaged version. Usually those have either added fats, preservatives, etc. to make them taste good – which end up adding more calories to the pita chips. Also, they’re usually not made with whole wheat pita bread, so you lose the added fiber and nutritional value there as well. It’s really easy to make pita chips at home – took less than 5 minutes!

Ingredients

  • Whole wheat pita bread
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt, pepper, other spices to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a grill pan or panini press over medium-high heat, spray with olive oil spray
  2. Put 1 whole wheat pita bread on the panini press, spray the top lightly with olive oil spray and close the panini press (if on a grill pan, flip the pita once the side that’s down is crispy and browned)
  3. Take the pita out once it’s crispy (like a chip!), season with salt/pepper/or your favorite spices to taste
  4. With a serrated bread knife, cut the whole pita into 8 equal wedges. Serve with dip!

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Evvia Restaurant, Palo Alto – A wonderful dining experience!

This weekend, my husband and I went to Evvia for dinner – a Greek inspired restaurant in the heart of the Silicon Valley. We had been to their sister restaurant in San Francisco – Kokkari – a bunch of times and loved it, but we had never tried Evvia before. As we walked down Emerson Street towards the restaurant, I was really excited – if Evvia was anything like Kokkari, I knew we’d be in for a treat. Luckily, they did not disappoint! The warmth of the restaurant was felt as soon as we walked in the door – which is helped by their rustic, wood decor and ambient lighting. Our waiter greeted us immediately, helped us in choosing two excellent wines and made recommendations that were helpful to us (as vegetarians). The service was prompt and efficient, but friendly – we never felt like we were being rushed. And the food was excellent! Below are the pictures from our meal and the dishes we ordered. If you’re ever in Palo Alto, I’d highly recommend checking out Evvia, especially if you like Greek food with a twist. Enjoy the photos!

We started our meal with a Green Lentil Vegetable Soup, garnished with olive oil. Super flavorful, hearty but still light enough that we were able to enjoy the rest of the meal! The restaurant also split the soup into two bowls for us since we were sharing it, which I thought was a nice touch.

We also ordered crispy zucchini cakes, served with cucumber & mint yogurt as an appetizer. They were perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside with the wonderful texture of shredded zucchini on the inside. The yogurt sauce was a perfect cooling accompaniment to the dish. I think this might have been my husband’s favorite meal of the night!

Oh, and did I mention the wine?? We ordered a glass of the Velio, Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie ’08; and a glass of the Alpha Estate, Axia, Amyndeon ’06 (a red wine similar to a Syrah). Both were excellent. Here’s my husband digging into the soup with the wine glasses on our table 🙂

For our entree, we had the herbed ravioli with heirloom cherry tomatoes, pesto, pine nuts & feta. Note – this dish looks small (only 4 pieces of ravioli) – but it’s actually super filling and very flavorful! For one person it’s definitely enough. For two people though… we were still hungry 🙂 So we ordered another dish – The Evvia Pita with caramelized onions, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, myzithra cheese & Greek basil. We really liked the pita – the sweetness of the onions and what tasted like a honey/wheat dough was balanced well with the saltiness of the olives and cheese. This was a great way to end our meal – the pita totally hit the spot and filled us up!

For dessert, we decided to try the Galaktoboureko, which is a traditional phyllo wrapped vanilla bean semolina custard with pistachio ice cream. It sounded a bit odd, but oh my GOD it was AMAZING. The perfect balance of flavors and a really unique dessert! Note – they also have a healthier dessert option which is the homemade Greek yogurt served with dried fruit, walnuts and honey on the side – which I ordered out of curiosity and that was really good too. But if you’re looking for a real DESSERT – try the Galaktoboureko – I promise you’ll love it 🙂

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Perfect Sunday Brunch: French Toast Casserole, Potato Hash & Strawberry Smoothies!

This weekend, I decided to surprise my husband by making brunch from scratch for him. I had never actually cooked brunch before in my life, so I was a little nervous about how it would turn out. But I found a couple great recipes from HungryGirl and EatingWell.com that looked really yummy, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’m happy to report that the brunch was a total success!! All of the dishes turned out AMAZINGLY well – my husband LOVED them. And the french toast was a huge hit (thank you HungryGirl!) – my husband said he’s never liked french toast made at home, but he loved this dish. And the smoothies – which was a recipe that I made up – tasted exactly like the In-N-Out Strawberry Shakes, but my recipe was much healthier 🙂 All in all, it was a really fun cooking experience! The recipes (with my notes/modifications) and pictures are below, hope you enjoy them!

The Menu:

1) Fuji Apple French Toast Casserole

2) Potato & Onion Hash Browns

3) Strawberry Smoothies

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Fuji Apple French Toast Casserole

Notes: This is an amazing recipe for a super low calorie, fiber filled, and really flavorful french toast. Most recipes like this one would run you 500+ calories for 1-2 slices of french toast, but this recipe gives you a HUGE portion (4 inch by 4 inch casserole square) for only 200 calories! The only considerations here are – a lot of the ingredients in this recipe are somewhat processed (e.g. you’re not using real butter, sugar, syrup, etc.) So if that weirds you out a little, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe. I usually try to stick to whole foods without 30 ingredients per item, but once in a while I’m ok with trying a recipe that calls for more processed ingredients if it saves on calories and still has some good nutritional value (fiber, protein, etc.). Just my two cents before I give you the recipe 🙂

Ingredients

  • 8 slices light bread (40 – 45 calories each with around 2g fiber per slice), cut into cubes. I used Sara Lee 45 Calories Delightful 100% Whole Wheat bread with honey (link here)
  • 4 oz. fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 medium apple (preferably Fuji), peeled and diced
  • 1 1/4 cups light vanilla soymilk
  • 1 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters Original)
  • 2 tbsp. sugar-free pancake syrup
  • 2 tbsp. light whipped butter or light buttery spread (like Brummel & Brown), melted
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 no-calorie sweetener packet (like Splenda), or more to taste. 1 packet made the french toast sweet enough for us.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Place bread cubes evenly along the bottom of the dish.
  3. Sprinkle diced apple evenly over the bread.
  4. In a medium-large bowl, combine all other ingredients (cream cheese, soymilk, egg substitute, syrup, butter, cinnamon, and sweetener). If you like your French toast really sweet, add an extra packet of sweetener. Using a handheld electric mixer set to medium speed, mix until lump-free and smooth. Pour mixture over the bread and apple.
  5. Make sure bread is soaked in the liquid mixture. If needed, toss lightly to coat.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until egg mixture is pretty firm and cooked through. Note – mine took about 50 min. (Be sure not to overcook, as bread may burn.) Let cool slightly and cut into quarters. If you like, serve with additional syrup for dipping. Dig in!

Nutritional Info

Makes 4 servings – One serving = One 4inch by 4inch square

Calories: ~200

Fat: 4.25g

Fiber: 6g

Protein: 16.5g

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Potato and Onion Hash Browns

Note: I modified most of this recipe, so my notes are below in purple text. This recipe was also a HUGE hit with my husband. He said he’d actually want this at a restaurant (and he always thinks hash browns at restaurants are the best)!

Ingredients

  • 3 medium russet potatoes, (1 pound total), peeled and cut into quarters (Note: I used 1 lb of baby red potatoes and left the skins on for added fiber)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (I used a red onion because I like the flavor and color)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch paprika (I omitted this)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (I actually used 1 Tbsp of chopped fresh rosemary because I love the flavors of rosemary with potatoes)

Directions

  1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold, lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and boil until potatoes are just tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and cool. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes. (You should have 2 cups of cubed potatoes.)
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until they are limp and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to sauté until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. (Lower heat slightly if pan becomes too hot.) Season with salt, pepper and paprika (if you use paprika). Stir in parsley or rosemary and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information (for 1 serving)

Makes 4 servings

Calories: ~120

Fat: 2g

Protein: 3g

Fiber: 2g

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Strawberry Smoothies

Notes: This recipe is SUPER easy. Only 4 ingredients, and you can make it in like 2 minutes. A great breakfast on its own, or as an accompaniment to any brunch!

Ingredients

  • 8 Frozen whole strawberries (Trader Joe’s has great organic frozen strawberries)
  • 3 oz low-fat vanilla yogurt (I used Trader Joe’s organic vanilla yogurt – 140 calories for 6 oz)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup 1% milk, or soy milk, or Unsweetened almond breeze
  • 1-2 packets Splenda sweetner

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until combined, creamy and smooth. You can also use a hand blender for this – it’s a lot easier for cleanup (that’s what I used and it turned out great)

Overall, it was a super satisfying, really healthy brunch – definitely felt like we were in a restaurant. Below are the final products all combined – can’t wait to make it again!


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Two Fun, Unique Summer Fruit Ideas: Watermelon Salad and Chili-Rubbed Melon

Last week, I discovered a couple awesome ways to dress up fruit, courtesy of one of my favorite cafes! On Monday, they were serving yellow watermelon – which I had never had before. It actually tastes just like red watermelon but feels a little lighter/fresher, and it’s just fun to eat because it’s a yellow watermelon 🙂 And later in the week, they served Honeydew Melon rubbed with Chili and Lime which was really unexpected but tasted amazing! Here are two fun ways to dress up the usual summer fruits – hope you enjoy them!

Fruit Idea #1: Watermelon Salad

Ingredients: Cubed seedless yellow and red watermelon (4 cups), cubed jicama or cucumber (3 cups), fresh lime juice (1/4 cup), salt and pepper to taste, mint leaves thinly sliced

Directions: Toss all the ingredients together and serve immediately! Enjoy 🙂

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Fruit Idea #2: Chili-Rubbed Melon

Ingredients: 1 Honeydew Melon, cut into large slices or wedges, chili powder, lime juice, salt

Directions: Take each of the melon slices and coat with lime juice. Then rub the chili powder and salt generously on both sides of the slice (the lime juice and natural juices of the melon will help it stick). Serve immediately and enjoy!

The great thing about both of these recipes is they will satisfy your sweet tooth, and are super refreshing, but are extremely low in calories! 1 huge cup of watermelon only has about 40-50 calories; and 1 huge cup of honeydew melon has about 60 calories. The spices and lemon juice are pretty negligible so you can definitely enjoy these treats without ruining your diet!

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New Product Find: Food Should Taste Good Chips!

Recently, I was contacted by the wonderful team at Food Should Taste Good – asking if I’d try their chips and write up a review. After checking out their website and reading about their company – I was intrigued, and agreed to try a sampling of 5 flavors (they have 11 total): Cheddar, Blue Corn, Sweet Potato, Chocolate, and Multi Grain. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (especially from the Chocolate flavored chip!), but I have to say – after me and my husband tried the chips, we were both very impressed. The chips really live up to the company’s motto: they all taste really GOOD 🙂 And the best part about them – they are super healthy! I’m always on the lookout for healthy product finds, and these chips are probably the healthiest chips I’ve ever come across!

Here are the stats:

Serving size: 9-12 HUGE chips. Seriously – each chip is like a large cracker – even if you broke them all in half, youd end up with good sized chips (so you could even say that you get 18-24 half sized chips in one serving!)

Calories: 140 per serving

Fiber: 3-4g!

Protein: 2-3g

The other great thing about these chips is you can pronounce ALL the ingredients. Each ingredient list is pretty short too – and they use great power-foods like quinoa, flax seeds, stone ground corn, high oleic sunflower oil, etc. Their chips are gluten-free, kosher, lactose free, trans fat free, low in sodium, cholesterol free, not genetically modified, contain no MSG, and have no preservatives! You’d think – with a list like that, that the chips would end up tasting like cardboard. Trust me – that is NOT the case. They are super crispy, have a wonderful nutty flavor, and for the varieties like Chocolate or Sweet Potato – the chips contain a nice subtle essence of those ingredients – enough to taste, but not too much that it overpowers the flavor. Food Should Taste Good has also come up with a bunch of accompaniments to their flavor varieties on their website, from Artichoke Spinach Dip with Multigrain, to a Fresh Fruit Salsa with Sweet Potato.

Out of the flavors they sent me, I have to say the Cheddar and Multi Grain are my favorites – but I haven’t tried all of them so there could be even more amazing ones out there! I really commend this company for helping to promote healthy foods but in a very tasty, flavorful way. My husband (who is very particular about what chips he likes) – loved these as well – so these aren’t just for the health nuts out there (like me 🙂 ). If these are available at your local grocery store, I’d definitely recommend checking them out! Thanks Food Should Taste Good – great job on making an amazing product!

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Tips for Healthy Eating At Weddings or Dining Out in General

This weekend, we went to Baltimore for our friends’ wedding – and it was an amazing weekend – filled with dancing, good food, and hanging out with good friends. One of the great things about weddings is the awesome food (and cake!) – but that generally also ends up being a diet pitfall for many people who are trying to watch what they eat. A few of our friends suggested I do a post on eating at weddings – to provide some tips on how to enjoy wedding food without breaking your diet. So here goes – tips for eating at weddings – The Picky Eater way! 🙂

So, let me start by saying that weddings are a time to enjoy yourself, have fun and not worry too much about your diet. If you’re the type of person who can have a day of “cheating” with no problems getting back to eating healthy, then my suggestion would just be to have fun at the wedding and resume your diet when you get back home. Even if you ate 3000 calories at the wedding (double the amount normally recommended for a grown adult), you’re not going to gain like 5 lbs just from that one day, especially if you eat much lighter the next day. But – if you’re the type of person who needs to stay on your diet, because if you go “rogue” and pig out at a wedding, you’re never going to return to eating vegetables again, then you might want to try some of my suggestions 🙂

Generally, I think there are three strategies you can use when eating out / eating at weddings:

1) The Small Portions / Picky Eater strategy (recommended for people who don’t want to go off their diet, but still want to indulge and enjoy a bit – I generally eat this way when I go to weddings). You can also use this strategy when you go out to dinner and don’t want to break your diet!

The key here is “a little bit” – those three words will be your favorite words when navigating the wedding buffet or eating the plated dinner. Take a look at this post on Portion Sizes for a bit more guidance on what “a little bit” means. But generally, think of it as little tastes from the buffet, or 1/2 the portion you’re served in a plated dinner.

Other helpful guidelines:

  • Look for healthy items during cocktail hour. Oftentimes people will put out veggies and dip, fruit, nuts, cheese, etc. If you take a ton of the veggies and fruit, complement them with a tablespoon of dip, and 1-2 cubes of cheese, you’ll walk into the reception feeling pretty full and likely won’t feel the need to pig out at the buffet
  • Avoid things that are deep fried, breaded, regular soda (if you want soda – go for the diet version – it has zero calories!), or anything in a cream sauce (salads, pastas, this goes for soup too – creamy soups pack almost double the calories of broth-based soups!). Again – if you want any of these things, try the “little bit” strategy 🙂 1-2 bites of anything isn’t going to break your diet!
  • For salads, take off the croutons – they randomly have tons of calories and fat
  • If there is a bread basket, don’t eat more than 1 roll or 1 slice – each one is about 150 calories at the very least! Think of it this way – if you had a choice between a bread roll now or the cake at the end… which one would you choose? 🙂
  • Beer and wine generally have fewer calories than mixed drinks (which can run up to 500-1000 calories depending on what’s in them!)
  • For dessert, share. That way you won’t end up eating the entire piece of cake yourself. Most buffets will also have fruit options or lighter fare for dessert which you should definitely go for. You can also use the “little bit” strategy with the cake – take a few bites and savor them – if you don’t eat those few bites mindlessly, you might find that your sweet craving has been satisfied without downing the entire slice!

2) The Going Rogue / Detox strategy (recommended for people who can easily discipline themselves the day after the wedding to detox and get back to eating healthy).

This strategy is simple – eat what you want on the day of the wedding, but the day after the wedding – do a complete detox. This doesn’t mean starve yourself by any means. Detox guidelines (note – this is JUST for the day after you get back from the wedding – it’ll revitalize your system and make you feel lighter/healthier!):

  • Eat whole foods. Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t understand
  • Eat tons of fresh fruits and veggies – you can have as much of these as you like 🙂
  • Eat whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat bread, quinoa are some of my favorites)
  • Drink lots of water (no sodas, sugary juices, etc)
  • No desserts – 1 small piece of dark chocolate (70% cacao is a good choice) is probably ok though 🙂
  • For protein, try to stay away from meat – focus on dairy (1% milk, fat free yogurt, low fat cheese), tofu, 1/4 cup of almonds or walnuts, etc.
  • Minimize your intake of oils, fats, etc. (so basically, no french fries)

3) The Complete Avoidance strategy (which I wouldn’t recommend because honestly it’s not that much fun, but if you’re the type of person who can’t even have a taste of a cupcake without wanting to eat 5 of them, this strategy will probably work best for you). There aren’t really guidelines here – except that you’d basically stay away from all of the unhealthy foods (all desserts, anything fried, anything made with cream, any entree where the oil is visible or pools out in the sauce, etc.) If you did use this strategy, you’d probably have to bring a few snacks from home in order to supplement your meals throughout the day like fresh fruits, nuts, Lara Bars, etc. otherwise you’d starve!

Phew! I think that’s it 🙂 Hopefully these tips are helpful in navigating the world of wedding food – but remember, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself and have fun!!

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