When you're out and about all day, it can be really tempting to just stop by [insert fast food place] and order [really greasy but tasty meal]. Or maybe the family heads to a favorite restaurant and you order your tried-and-true (and fatty) favorite.
Here's another choice. And it includes pie.
Marie Callender's Braised and Slow-Roasted Pot Roast
The Carmel Mountain Road area is home to many big name stores that are close enough for Rancho Bernardo residents to stop by for a good day of shopping. I happened to be looking for some books at Border's when I decided to go to Marie Callender's (11122 Rancho Carmel Dr.) for lunch.
The restaurant has a special "Fresh Creations" menu with lower calorie dishes, described as "the lighter side of comfort food." Good tease, but the options don't deliver. There were only six or seven choices and about half of them were salads. I like a good salad, but I wouldn't really call that comfort food. What I wanted was a lower calorie pot pie or another one of Marie's signature dishes, but that was not one of the choices.
Since the lighter options capped out around 700 calories, my waiter suggested I keep looking through the menu for other entree in that calorie range without the "Fresh Creations" tag. Good idea.
I chose the pot roast meal, which came with mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli. 660 calories. Not great, but not as bad as one item which had more than 1,900 (!) calories.
The pot roast was tender as promised, but the cut I received had way too much fat. It was distracting to have to keep cutting off chunks of fat before taking bites. Maybe I just received a bad cut, but that aspect of the meal was really a downer. The steamed vegetables were fine, as were the mashed potatoes. I didn't add any salt or butter, not that it was needed (or a good idea).
Now for the pie. You can't really go to Marie's without getting pie, so I wanted to see what I could get instead of the red velvet cream pie that looked so good on the menu. There were a number of fresh fruit pie options with 450-500 calories per slice—strawberry, peach, berry and summer berry—but the waiter said none of them were available because those fruits are not in season. Some of the classics, such as the pecan pie with 920 calories per slice, weren't looking like good choices for a Healthy Bites pick.
So I reluctantly went with the "No Sugar Added" apple pie with 480 calories per slice, described as having "natural fruit sugars." The waiter said that Splenda had been added, too, which worried me because I'm not a fan of the artificial sweetener taste. He said you can hardly taste the Splenda, so I went for it.
With the first bite, I could taste the Splenda. It wasn't as prominent as when you are drinking certain brands of diet soda, but it was definitely there. Let me say this: If you're cutting down on your sugar intake, you won't hate this pie. But I would probably just ease up on some other calories in my daily meals to squeeze in the extra 90 calories the regular apple pie (570 calories) has. Not quite the Healthy Bites preference, but sometimes you just have to know when to give in.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 for the pot roast ($14.99); 1 out of 5 for the pie.