Weekends are, by far, my 'splurge' time. I really look forward to eating out at our favorite restaurants; enjoying time with friends and family, while indulging in some epicurean delights. That said, eating out at restaurants more often than not can do damage to a healthy diet. This isn't only true for those trying to lose weight, but also for those trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Fact is, even those dishes that 'appear' healthy on the menu, often come with hidden ingredients like butter and oils that can take a seemingly healthy dish and turn it into a calorie and fat intensive meal.
So how can you ensure your choices while eating out are healthy? Here is a quick guide of foods you should stick with when you navigate the restaurant menu:
1. Salads: Salads can be very healthy...and they can also be devastatingly unhealthy. Here's how to ensure that they are the healthful meal you are looking for:
- Salads with fruit, veggies, beans and lean protein, such as grilled chicken or fish.
- Dressings that are vinaigrette based. Always have the waiter or waitress bring the dressing on the side. When you get the dressing, use it sparingly.
- Salads containing cheese, sour cream, nuts, tortilla chips or strips, croutons, meats, fried chicken or fried fish. However, if most of the salad doesn't contain these ingredients, there is nothing wrong with asking the waiter/waitress to exclude the ingredient that isn't so healthy.
- Cream or mayo based dressings. (E.g., Ranch, Blue Cheese, Thousand Island, French)
2. Soups: Soups can be a healthy option, but often, they are loaded with butter, oil and highly saturated creams or dairy (cheese).
BEST: Broth or stock based soups that contain fish or chicken, veggies and beans. (E.g., Manhattan Clam Chowder, Gazpacho, Minestrone, Chicken Noodle))
WORST: Those with cream, cheese or milk. (E.g., Bisques, New England Clam Chowder, Broccoli Cheese)
3. Other Appetizers: Appetizers are a great way of eating light. You can order two appetizers (such as a salad and a protein based appetizer) to keep your portion under control, and get a couple of things you like. That said, a lot of appetizers are fried or greasy, so beware.
- Vegetable based appetizers (E.g., salads, grilled vegetables, veggie spring rolls)
- Those with grilled, boiled or seared lean meats (E.g., Chicken skewers)
- Fish appetizers that are cooked or sushi style (E.g., Shrimp Cocktail, tuna sushi roll)
- Those that are fried (E.g., fried shrimp, chicken fingers, dumplings, etc.)
- Those with cheese (E.g., artichoke/spinach dip, cheese fritters, etc.)
- Those that come with chips
4. Side Dishes: Many side dishes are vegetable based, which is great for getting in fiber and needed nutrients.
BEST: Opt for whole boiled or baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.
WORST: Stay away from mashed or fried potatoes.
BEST: Opt for steamed or grilled veggies. Be careful though, grilled vegetables can be very oily.
- Those mixed with milk, cream or cheese (E.g., creamed spinach, broccoli and cheese)
- Sauteed vegetables. They are cooked with a lot of oil and if they are cooked too much, they may not be as nutrient dense as their steamed counterparts.
Meats, Chicken and Fish:
BEST: Grilled chicken or fish. Grilled meats are okay if they are very lean.
- Breaded Fish or Chicken (E.g., Chicken Francese, Chicken Parmigiana)
- Stuffed Meats (E.g., Chicken Cordon Bleu, Stuffed Lobster)
- Avoid meats and fish that are fried (E.g., Fried Shrimp, Fried Chicken)
- Fatty meats or fatty pork (E.g., sausage)
- Those with tomato or broth based sauces (E.g., marinara, puttanesca, olive oil and garlic)
- Those with vegetables and grilled or lightly sauteed chicken or fish
WORST: Those with cream, cheese or meat based sauces (E.g., a la vodka, pesto, alfredo, bolognese)
What do you eat when you go out to stay healthy? Do you have an automatic go-to?