Eating Out doesn't have to equal Pigging Out! (Part Two)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ok you’ve picked a restaurant, sat down at the table, and turned away the bread basket. Now what? The things you do next will decide if this meal is simply another step on your path to a healthy happy life or if it will be an total disaster in the world of all things healthy. Ok, Ok I am being slightly dramatic (or really dramatic)! However, what you order at your favorite restaurant can have a huge impact on your overall diet success. With as much as we eat out, learning how to order healthy food is a must.  Follow these few simple tips and finding the right food will be as easy as 1-2-3!

Healthy and Delicious!

  • Don’t always assume you should skip the appetizers just because you’re watching what you eat. While you may think you're helping yourself by skipping the appetizers, jumping right to the heavy stuff when you’re hungry may actually cause you to consume more calories. 
  • Healthy options such as salads, soups, side items, and even breakfast items might be hiding in the appetizer section
  • Some great meal starter options include: melon (mmmm watermelon!), fruit, steamed seafood, and smoked salmon. 
  • Some restaurants will put together a small veggie plate if you ask nicely.
  • Broth-based soups are usually a great choice. Studies have shown that people who eat a low calorie soup before their main meal consume fewer calories.
  • Avoid anything fried or breaded at all costs, and be careful of anything that comes with a dip. 
  • If something fried does sneak on to your plate (hey things happen), peel of the coating (this is where the fat hangs out).
  • Trade ketchup, mustard, bbq sauce, salsa or taco sauce for mayonnaise, tartar sauce or any creamy sauces or dips. 

Can you even call this a salad? I can't find the lettuce?

Soups and Salads
  • Salad bars can be a diet saver or a diet destroyer depending if you use them for good or evil. Skip the cheeses, eggs, creamy dressings, bacon, croutons, pasta salad, potato salad, and macaroni salad (I know all the fun stuff). Load up on sliced carrots, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, raisins, nuts, garbanzo beans, fruit and other fresh produce.
  • If you order a house salad, ask for extra veggies.
  • Order the spinach salad, it may cost more but it is totally worth it.
  • Always, Always, Always order your salad dressings on the side. Dip your fork into the dressing and then into your salad
  • If they don’t offer low fat dressings, try a squeeze of lemon, or vinegar with a little bit of oil (I even like to put salsa on top if all else fails)! Have you ever asked someone at a fast food restaurant if they have low-fat dressings? Well let me tell you, they look at you like your from mars!!!
  • If you order salad for your main meal, avoid breaded chicken, olives, cheese, bacon, eggs and croutons. Check out 40 Salads that Can Kill You.
  • Beware of taco salads; they can be filled with unnecessary calories.
  • Avoid creamy soups like clam chowder or tomato bisque. Stick with broth based soups like minestrone, wonton, beef barley, gazpacho, tortilla, or chicken noodle.
When it comes to sauces, red is better than white or yellow!

  • Check to see if there is a "healthy options" section of the menu.
  • Bad words to watch for- buttery, breaded, buttered, fried, pan-fried, creamed, scalloped, au gratin, a la mode.
  • Good words to watch for- grilled, baked, steamed, broiled, poached, stir-fried, roasted, and blackened. 
  • Ask to sub french fries for an extra veggie or a salad.
  • If ordering anything on a bun, ask if they have a wheat bun or if you can get it on wheat bread.
  • If your meat comes on a bead of rice, ask if you can sub a veggie for the rice. 
  • Avoid sauces made with milk, cheese, oil or mayonnaise. If you can’t see through it be careful!
  • Marinara and tomato-based sauces are usually more flavorful and healthier than creamy sauces and gravies. Remember red is usually better than white or yellow!
  • Get anything liquid on the side, including sauces, gravies and creams.
  • When ordering pasta (especially with cream sauce) ask the waiter to go light on the sauce. 
  • Know your meats! 
    • Pork- fairly lean minus sausage, bacon, and ribs
    • Fish- great option, usually lean and most contain healthy fat
    • Chicken- fairly lean especially when the skin and fat is removed. White is better than dark meat. 
    • Ground beef products- (from bad to not as bad) ground beef, ground chuck, ground round.
  • Avoid eating the skin of chicken, turkey or duck. If you peel off the skin you can save yourself tons of calories and fat!
  • Ask for your fish or meat to be broiled, and for the kitchen to hold the butter. Restaurants LOVE butter!
  • When ordering prime rib or roast, ask for a center or inner cut (these usually contain less fat).
  • Vegetarian options are not always lower in calories, especially if they are loaded with cheese, nuts, butter, bread and other non-vegetable ingredients.
  • Remember, a salad and a healthy appetizer can make a great meal.
Wow that’s a lot to take in! Just remember when it comes to ordering, take your time and follow your healthy eating intuition! Originally, I was going to do a three part healthy dining series. However after this post, I have decided to break it down further into four parts. Tomorrow, we will discuss ordering side dishes, what to do once your food hits the table, and how to order dessert safely. Then on Thursday, we will talk all about Fast Food! Happy Dining!

Yours truly,

Lauren G.
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3 Responses to “Eating Out doesn't have to equal Pigging Out! (Part Two)”

  1. absolutely love your blog! I am now following!


  2. Those are all such fabulous tips. I always try to get veggies when I'm out to eat. And no matter what I take my time to savor what I'm eating instead of just shoving it down my throat.


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