Diet and Exercise Tips


Get Restaurant Savvy

Last updated Mar 03, 2009
YOU DON'T HAVE TO GIVE UP DINING OUT
Healthy eating is not supposed to be a prison sentence! Americans love to dine out... the atmosphere is nice, its perfect for a date and to catch up with friends, someone else is cooking and cleaning for you... what's not to love?  For others, ordering on the road is a necessity, when busy schedules and business traveling just don't allow time to shop and prepare meals at home.  
BUT FEAR NOT, DINERS! 
You can absolutely get a healthy meal at almost any restaurant (sometimes with a little fanagaling) if you know how to read a menu (and sweet talk your server).
MENU TERMINOLOGY
Fried: This is undoubtedly the technique that raises the level of fat and calories of the meal the most.  Fried food fans might find it helpful to note, however, that ingredients absorb much more fat when pan-fried than during deep-frying, but even pan fried foods should only be ordered occasionally.
GRADE: F
Broiled: This is a good alternative to fried, because the product will have a similar crisp and golden coating and a moist and tender interior.
GRADE: B+
Steamed: Another fat-free technique, this is becoming an increasingly popular way of cooking meat, fish, chicken, and vegetables.  Ingredients retain the color, flavor, and texture, and fewer nutrients are leached out. *An especially good idea when ordering chinese take-out, as almost all of the entrees can be prepared this way.
GRADE: A+
Braised/Stewed: This is not always such a light option. Braising/stewing often begin with browning the meat or fish in fat (butter or oil), then finishing the cooking process in a closed pot with a water based liquid that is brought to a boil.  When preparing at home, the first step can be omitted to save calories, however, this is not likely to happen in a restaurant.
GRADE: D
Roasted: Usually reserved for large cuts of meat, fat is an integral part of this cooking technique.  Without it, meat or fish would dry out and become too brown.  
GRADE: C
Grilled: Flavor is created by caramelizing the natural sugars in food through direct heat. Grilling is a healthy technique for meat since fatty juices drain away.
GRADE: A
Baked: Ingredients are surrounded by hot air, which cooks foods gently through indirect heat. Many baked dishes are virtually fat-free, since the addition of fat is not required to produce a juicy, tender product.
GRADE: A+
Poached:  Foods are completely submerged in simmering liquids. An ideal technique for ingredients with a delicate texture or subtle flavor, such as chicken and fish, and is FAT-FREE.
GRADE: A+
Sauteed: A method of cooking food that uses a small amount of fat in a shallow pan over relatively high heat. Olive oil or butter are commonly used as the base and the residual fond in the pan is used as sauce to top the food.  As a result, these menu items tend to be higher in added fat and calories than most other cooking methods.
GRADE: D
TIPS FOR CUTTING CALORIES WHILE DINING
  • If the breadbasket poses a challenge for you, request that it not be served in the first place.  Fill up on water and conversation before your meal.
  • Consider splitting your meal with another guest at your table.  North American restaurants are notorious for preparing ENORMOUS portions that could feed more than one person.
  • Ask for a "to go" container with your meal and pack up the excess, so you're not tempted to finish it all while you wait for you server to clear the table.
  • Remember what constitutes a serving: 
    • Your protein serving should be roughly the size of the palm of your hand
    • Your whole grains should be the size of a tennis ball
    • Your complex carbs from fresh vegetables the size of your open hand
  • Ordering an appetizer as your main course may be an option when portions sizes are huge.
  • Check out the menu from home first! Most restaurants have their menus available online.  You may find it helpful to make your selections before you go, to give you more time to analyze the offerings.
GREAT PLATES
These are some ideas for healthy restaurant meals from a variety of cuisines.  Most chefs will be happy to offer you these simple options, even if they are not on the menu.  Always remember to ask for light oil or butter during preparation.
ITALIAN: 
Appetizer: chilled shrimp cocktail
Salad: green salad with oil and vinegar on the side
Entree: Grilled chicken paillard (pounded thin) over sauteed broccoli rabe
SUSHI:
Appetizer: edamame
Salad: seaweed salad 
Entree: sushi or sashimi deluxe
CHINESE:
Appetizer: steamed vegetable dumplings
Entree: steamed chicken or shrimp with broccoli, sauce on the side, brown rice
FRENCH:
Appetizer: crudites (raw cut vegetables)
Salad: Salade Nicoise (tuna, green beans, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, onion and potatoes)
Entree: Fish dishes in light sauce, such as rouille or veloute
STEAKHOUSE:
Appetizer: Raw bar item, such as a oysters/clams
Salad: Spinach salad with light vinagrette
Entree: Filet mignon with a small baked sweet potato
HOW ABOUT A CUP OF HERBAL TEA AND FRESH BERRIES FOR DESSERT?
 
    

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