Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Healthy Restaurant Eating

Dining out can be quite a challenge when you are working to maintain a healthy diet plan. Learning a few simple restaurant eating techniques can enable you to dine sensibly AND still enjoy your meals at the same time. This post provides some important guidelines for you to learn and keep so you can feel confident and prepared when you walk through any restaurant door!

Step One: Knowing the right approach
Planning ahead is essential for healthy dining out. Key points to remember are:

Before you leave...
* Try to select a restaurant that you know has heart healthy, low fat menu options

* When going to a new restaurant, try to preview the menu or call ahead of time to ask about the food choices and the possibility of accommodating your dietary needs

* Have a low fat, high fiber snack (such as fruit and yogurt, raw veggies, popcorn)to avoid feeling too hungry and prevent the temptation to overeat once you get there

Once you’re there...
* Read the menu carefully, beware of terms that signal high fat/calories, instead look for those that imply lower calorie, low fat and higher fiber (examples below)

* Don’t be afraid to ask your server about menu specifics such as:
- methods of preparation (i.e. baked, steamed vs. fried, battered)
- ingredients used (toppings, sauces, oil, cheeses)
- substitutions available
(this ensures that you will know what to expect and won’t have any surprises)

* To help control portions:
- order a la carte items, a few sides or half portions for entrees
- split large portions with friends or ask to take the second half home
- to round out the meal: start with a low fat beverage/appetizer
and end with a healthy dessert (these are also described below)

* Keep a positive attitude and believe that you have the knowledge and the power to
choose appropriate and healthful selections and control portions

Step Two: Mastering the menu

Menu terms to be familiar with:

 Green light words (these likely mean lower fat, lower calorie)
steamed, baked, broiled, roasted, poached, garden fresh, grilled, lightly sautéed/stir-fried, boiled, skinless, plain/lean (menus may even highlight healthy/low fat options)

 Red light words (these often mean higher fat, higher calorie)
buttered, fried, battered, creamed/y, breaded, au gratin, alfredo, cheesy, crispy/flaky, marinated, hollandaise, bernaise, hash, pastry/fritter, parmigiana

Substitutions to suggest….

 Insist on healthy methods of preparation. For example: ask for chicken skinless and baked instead of fried (and see “green light” words listed above)

 Be careful with toppings and sauces,ask for fat free/low fat choices such as salsas, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, red sauces, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce (low sodium if available), mustard, ketchup, extra herbs/spices, jams/jellies and raisins, (some restaurants even offer lower fat, calorie and sodium versions of salad dressings, cheeses and sour cream)

 If you must have a high fat/calorie/sodium condiment, ask for it on the side to help control the amount you add and try to use the following toppings sparingly: butter, cream sauces, full fat salad dressings, sour cream, guacamole, cheeses, gravies, oils, whipped cream, salt, soy sauce

 Skip high fat/calorie appetizers/sides and replace them with healthier ones
- start with water, juices, fruit, salads, broth based soups
- ask for steamed vegetables, salads, pasta, brown rice, baked potatoes,
whole grain rolls instead of higher fat sides like french fries or onion rings

 Pass on dessert if you are not truly hungry for it but
if you NEED to end with dessert then…
- try low fat sweets such as jello, sorbets, low fat frozen yogurt,
angel food cake, fruit or specialty coffee drinks with low fat or nonfat milk
- bring a low fat treat with you (such as gum, hard candy)
- wait and eat a low fat dessert at home
- if you must have the real thing…SHARE, or at least halve the portion!!!!

Conquering various cuisines: (Tips for low fat eating at any restaurant type)



minestrone soup, fresh vegetable salad, grilled vegetables (light olive oil) plain bread (or dip in balsamic vinegar, small amounts of olive oil)

fried calamari, cheese based appetizers, bread with butter

Main Course:

pasta with red sauce or vegetables, grilled chicken/fish, small piece with of pizza- light/no cheese with plenty of vegetable toppings), entree size salads with grilled chicken or fish w/ balsamic vinegar, or dressing on the side

veal/chicken/eggplant parmigiana, calazones, pizza with large amounts of cheese/meat, pasta with cream sauces/ butter/cheese



sashimi, green salad, miso soup or other broth based soups with chicken/fish/ tofu/vegetables, steamed chicken or vegetable dumplings, basil rolls, brown rice, steamed vegetables, low sodium soy sauce or brown sauce on the side

egg rolls, fried won tons, fried shrimp(tempura), beef or pork ribs, peanut or coconut sauces

Main Course:

steamed/broiled chicken, fish, tofu, or lean pork with vegetables and soy, brown or teriyaki sauce on the side, brown rice, soba noodles with veggies

fried/battered beef, chicken, tofu,or seafood (tempura), fried rice, chow mein noodles in heavy oil,dishes with heavy coconut milk, duck, high fat pork or red meat entrees



gazpacho/black bean/tortilla soup, baked tortilla chips, whole wheat flour or corn tortillas, vegetable salads, grilled vegetables (light oil), salsa, black or pinto beans (whole no lard), turkey or vegetarian chili

fried tortilla chips, guacamole, nachos, taquitos, salads with tostada/taco shells, refried beans with lard/cheese, fried plantains, menudo soup, meat chili

Main Course:

grilled chicken, fish, shrimp or vegetable fajitas or soft tacos (hold cheese/guacamole/sour cream), salsa/chili sauce, low fat sour cream, entree salads with chicken, fish, black beans (dressing on the side),

pork, beef or cheese enchiladas/burritos, fried/hard shell tacos, tostadas, taquitos, chimichangas, chorizo (pork sausage),added guacamole, cheese, sour cream



broth based soups (lentil, vegetable) leavened/baked breads (whole wheat if available) like naan/kulcha/chapati, spiced vegetables/salads, lentil/potatoes cooked in tomato or broth, low fat yogurt, chutney, dahl (lentil) sauce

coconut soup, fried breads (paratha, poori) coconut/nut based sauces, fried rice/potato/vegetable dishes, fried or cheese based appetizers

Main Course:

tandoori/masala roasted/baked chicken or seafood, lentil/chickpea dishes with vegetables in spiced broth or tomatoes,

Skip: all dishes that are fried or have cream curry/cheese based sauces


Starters/Sides/ Main Course:

vegetable salads, grilled vegetables (light/no oil), small amounts of hummus, baba ganoush, whole wheat pita bread, tabouli, dolmas(grape leaves)stuffed with vegetables/rice, broth based lentil or vegetable soups,kalamata (olives) chicken/seafood/vegetable kabobs/gyros

dolmas with feta cheese/lamb, fried falafel, pastries with cheese/meat mousaka (eggplant with cheese) beef/lamb kabob/gyros



vegetable salads, steamed vegetables, broth based soups (vegetable, chicken, bean),low fat cottage cheese, fruit salad, baked potato, whole grain bread or rolls, shrimp cocktail, vegetarian chili

cream and cheese based soups, fried appetizers(chicken wings/fingers, onion rings french fries), creamed or buttered vegetables, colesaw, potato salad

Main Course:

entrée size salads with added beans, plain tuna, egg whites, grilled chicken or fish (light dressing, balsamic/red wine vinegar or dressing on side) grilled vegetables, turkey or chicken sandwiches on whole grain bread, turkey or veggie burgers on whole wheat bun, grilled or baked chicked/turkey/seafood with veggies and brown rice

Chef or Caesar salad, beef/pastrami sandwiches, chicken/tuna/egg salad w/ mayo fried chicken or steak, pasta with cream sauce, mac and cheese, beef burgers


Starters/Sides/Main course:

fresh fruit, non/low fat cottage cheese or yogurt. whole grain toast, wheat english muffin or 1/2 bagel with jam or light cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, turkey or canadian bacon/turkey sausage, egg white omelette with veggies, bran or oat cold cereal with skim milk, oatmeal with skim milk and raisins

whole milk/yogurt/cottage cheese, regular muffins, pastries, doughnuts, white bagels/english muffins with butter/regular cream cheese, hash browns/fried potatoes, granola, beef/pork sausage, biscuits, gravy, waffles, pancakes, whole egg dishes

One final suggestion for every cuisine…….

This post is to help you focus on learning to make the best choices for your healthy eating plan when dining out. However it is certainly acceptable to choose some of the higher fat options once and awhile IF you halve the portion or create a balance by eating very healthy items for the other two meals of your dayNOTE:

These are basic examples of restaurant eating ideas. Please consult your personal physician and medical team (such as a registered dietitian) for specific advice on diet and health pertaining to you.


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