Dining out can sometimes threaten healthy eating plans and could even ruin a successful day of dieting. For example, the butter, sugar and salt that chefs add – plus gigantic portions sizes – can make even a healthy heart stutter.
Fortunately, the June 2014 Harvard Health Letter provides tips and tricks for dining out the healthy way.
For starters, portion control is key for making a meal healthier.
“Large portions are a challenge in many restaurants, and once the food is one the plate, it can be difficult to resist,” said Registered Dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s hospital.
McManus offers three simple strategies to avoid overeating:
- Cut an entrée in half the moment it arrives, and ask the wait staff to wrap it up
- Split an entrée with a dining companion
- Skip an entrée altogether and order two appetizers instead
Another way to make a meal healthier is to ask the server how the meal is prepared before ordering the dish.
“If something is typically prepared in butter, ask for it to be steamed or broiled without added butter, or ask for it to be sautéed in olive oil instead,” McManus said.
The same can be said about salt – ask the chef to either go easy or forego it all together.
Do not be shy about asking for substitutions, as this is an easy way to cut out empty calories.
“Many folks need to make substitutions for food allergies, so there is no reason why a customer cannot request a substitution for health,” said McManus.
For example, the chefs will most likely be able to switch out white rice for brown rice and regular pasta for whole-wheat pastas. Also do not be afraid to swap out your side of fries for a healthier alternative – such as a plate of veggies or a salad.
Speaking of salads, it is also recommended to ask for the dressing on the side as many dressings are filled with empty calories. The same can be said about any other dressing or sauce.
In some restaurants, certain items may be drenched with sauces that are loaded with calories. Avoid this by asking the waitstaff if the sauce could be served on the side. Instead of drizzling the sauce on your meal, dip your fork into the sauce first, and then place your fork onto a bite of food.
Finally, one of the best strategies for healthy dining out is to plan ahead. Look at the restaurant’s menu online, call ahead and ask questions or ask a friend or family member who has dined there in the past.
Planning ahead can also help you determine if you will want to skip one aspect of a meal in favor of another – such as skipping the bread basket to enjoy some dessert.
Leading a healthy, heart-friendly lifestyle will be extremely beneficial for your health for years to come. Taking care of your health now will also save you on high life and health insurance premiums in the future.