So, you're doing your best to eat healthy and you have worked hard to achieve your goals. Or maybe you just want to figure out what your healthiest options are when you eat out. With so many great restaurants and food choices, it can be challenging to figure out what to eat and how to order...
Do you ever feel like it's just too hard to figure out what the "good" foods are on the menu, so you just order whatever sounds good to you and hope that it's "healthy." Well, often times the foods you choose are healthy, it's what the restaurant is doing to the food that's not so great. Learning what to look for in the menu descriptions can often help you change the way you order and subsequently save you from too much fat and sodium. Don't be afraid to ask for foods prepared the way you want them!
Of course, sometimes you just want to give yourself a free pass for your dinner or lunch with friends. If that's the case, then have fun and enjoy your meal... But, if you know that you're going to go out and blow it at dinner and you feel guilty about that, one way you can help balance out the extra calories you consume is to cut back on what you eat the rest of the day. Don't skip any meals, but pay more attention to portion sizes and what you eat if you know that you might be splurging at the restaurant.
For those of you that are always determined to eat healthy when going out and want to make the best choices, here are some tips for ordering:
Look for the buzz words that mean "fat" to you - Pan-fried, sauteed, battered, breaded, au gratin, creamy, buttered, crispy, fried, basted. Choose baked, broiled, grilled or steamed instead.
Start your meal with a fresh salad (organic if possible). BUT, ask for your dressing on the side. Try dipping your fork in the dressing and then into your salad, that's one way to control how much dressing you use.
Pay attention to sauces. Usually they are very high in fat and sodium. Ask for sauce on the side, or leave it off altogether. If ordering pasta, marinara is always the best choice, or a little olive oil (though often they drench it in oil so tell them to go light on the oil).
Ask about making healthy substitutions. If it comes with a side of fries, ask if there is an option for grilled veggies, a salad or even a baked potato - but don't load the potato with sour cream and butter! :-)
Oh, the bread basket... What can I say? That one is hard to resist. If you have the willpower to eat just one roll (especially if it's whole wheat) then go ahead. But otherwise, you are better off saving the calories for the meal you ordered.
Dessert... It seems they automatically bring it over even if you haven't asked for it. All of the sudden, a tray is in front of you with all kinds of amazing cakes and tarts. Well, one way to "have your cake and eat it to" is to share with everyone at the table. Another option is to order fruit. Usually they have some kind of berries.
Finally, here are some of the top danger zones when it comes to dining out and some ways to make them a bit healthier...
Watch out for the hard-shelled tacos and deep-fried tortilla shells for the tostadas and specials... Ask for fresh corn tortillas. Of course, chips and salsa are obvious traps, but you can choose to order fresh corn torillas instead.
Choose brown rice, whole wheat tortillas, black beans instead of refried beans, grilled fish tacos instead of fried and leave off the sauce or get it on the side. Sour cream and cheese on the side...
Whole grain pastas, marinara sauce over cream sauces, pizzas with a thin crust and grilled chicken or veggies, minestrone soup, italian ices for dessert instead of pastries.
Go for dishes with lots of vegetables. Choose steamed brown rice over white rice. Ask for sauces on the side. Order steamed dumplings instead of fried wontons or egg rolls. Ask for the stir fry without the soy sauce, MSG and salt. Ask for low sodium soy sauce instead and do it yourself.
Ok, good luck out there! Fortunately, a lot of restaurants are now realizing that many of us want to make smart choices when we order and are offering low sodium, low fat, gluten free options. They are also very happy to accommodate your requests.
That's it for now... Until next time,
"Live Now - Live Well!"