Americans love dining out al fresco when the summer weather is so perfect. But don’t let restaurant food throw a monkey wrench into your healthy eating plan. Dining establishments can be ticking time bombs when it comes to sabotaging your nutrition.
In fact, government surveys say that that the food you typically eat when you are not at home is nutritionally worse in every way than your own kitchen fare.
“Eating out can be challenging, but shouldn’t limit your social life,” Dr. Craig Title, a top New York City weight loss specialist tells Newsmax Health. “Here are some tips I share with my clients.”
Be prepared. Like a good scout, select your meal options before you get to the restaurant by checking the menu online. “You’ll make a more level-headed, healthier choice,” says Title.
Eat a little beforehand. Don’t arrive at the restaurant famished. Make sure you have eaten a small meal or two earlier in the day.
Nix the bread. Instruct the wait staff NOT to bring out the bread and butter basket. “Out of sight, out of mind,” says Title. “Ask for celery and carrots sticks instead.”
Drink water. Down one full glass of water as soon as you are seated to help you feel fuller sooner, which will make you eat less.
Ask for it your way. Dining out is not the time to be a meek consumer, notes Dr. Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and coauthor of the book, “Restaurant Confidential.” His advice: “You need to be assertive and asked for your food to be prepared they way you’d like it and very often the restaurant will comply.” For example, choose grilled fish over fried and extra veggies instead of French fries.
Go for healthier fare. Order from the “light” or “low fat” section of the menu. Many chains, even Chinese restaurants, offer lighter fare with nutritional info on the menu.
Make salad more than a side. Order a salad with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and treat it as a first course, before you eat anything else. Scientists at Pennsylvania State University found that people who ate a big green or veggie salad before their entree consumed fewer calories.
Order double appetizers. This is especially rewarding when you’re dining at a seafood restaurant with sumptuous starters. An appetizer order of oysters on the half shell and another of steamed shrimp makes a complete and low-calorie meal along with your salad.
Avoid high-calorie dressings. Keep your salads tasty but healthy by shunning anything in a creamy high-calorie sauce and using raw or marinated vegetables, like artichoke hearts and mushrooms, for extra flavor. Skip the cheese and bacon bits, too.
Do the fork dip. Keep your salad dressing on the side and dip your fork into the dressing before skewering a forkful of salad. This makes the lettuce taste great and you won’t soak the greens in dressing.
Have the fish. When CPSI evaluated food served at seafood chains and independent restaurants they found many low-fat and low-sodium options on the menu. Just don’t order it fried. Stick to steamed, baked, broiled and blackened or grilled.
Read the fine print. Pay attention to words like “breaded, crisp, sauced or stuffed” as these indicate loads of hidden calories, much of it saturated or even trans-fats. Other words of caution are, “butter, pan-fried, Newburg, Thermidor, and cheese sauce.”
Limit alcohol. Instead drink soda or seltzer water. Enjoy one glass of wine or beer with your meal and order coffee or tea for dessert.
Skip the fancy drinks. Pass over the umbrella specials such as margaritas and Mai Tais and other exotic mixed drinks as they are chock full of sugar. Opt instead for a glass of vodka, wine, a light beer or a simple martini if you must imbibe.
Choose fruit for dessert. Title suggests sharing the finale with your date. Fresh fruit, like strawberries or blueberries, during the hot summer months makes an excellent dessert without any guilt.
“Most importantly, enjoy your food,” says Title. “Chew slowly and take time between bites. Focus on the occasion and the people you are dining with, rather than just the meal.”