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Can light still be luscious?

I have a confession to make: As I get older, I notice I can’t eat whatever I want without gaining weight. (Shocking, I know.) Having a baby didn’t help my situation. I love my 2-year-old daughter more than anything, but I sure wish my pants would fit the way they used to.

But I’m still a foodie. Especially when I have a chance to travel and eat out, I don’t want to sacrifice a tasty meal for a better calorie count.

My story is hardly uncommon, of course, which is why so many hotels — not to mention restaurants across the board — are revamping menus to include at least some healthy choices. Take Sofitel, which announced this past summer it was expanding its De-Light menu offerings — first launched last year — to several of its North America properties. Developed by France’s Thalassa Sea & Spa, De-Light promises to deliver nutritious options that still boast style and flavor.

Last week I had a chance to sample some of the De-Light menu at a luncheon highlighting the offerings at Sofitel Chicago Water Tower. The spread included starters, main dishes and desserts, and the hosts emphasized the fact that the items are available not only in the hotel’s restaurant, but also for room service and events, even weddings.

My favorite dish was perhaps the simplest: an heirloom tomato and cucumber “carpaccio” that came in at just 55 calories per serving.

I also greatly enjoyed one of the entrees, Skuna Bay salmon with baby carrots and an orange reduction (182 calories per serving).

With both of these dishes, I appreciated how much I could taste the ingredients’ natural flavors. This is a great reminder for all cooking, health-focused or not — trust high-quality food to shine on its own, without complex (and sometimes unhealthy) embellishment.

Before I left, I also tried one of the desserts, a peach panna cotta (90 calories per serving).

I did not enjoy my third course as much as my first two, and I believe it’s because of the same simplicity principle. The flavor that truly popped in this dish was that of the fresh peach on top; the panna cotta itself was comparatively bland. For me, at least, fresh fruit alone would have been more satisfying.

What has your experience been with the wave of healthier hotel food offerings? What have you tried that you liked, and what has missed the mark?

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