You can eat heart healthy when eating out, if you know what to look for. Isn’t that good news? Many restaurants have meals that are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. If not, you can ask them to prepare your food to order.
Before Eating Out
As soon as it’s decided that you’re eating out, you need to decide where to eat. You should avoid restaurants that offer all-you-can-eat buffets or specials because you will probably eat way more food and calories than you should.
Also, now that everything’s online, you can look at a restaurant’s menu on their website before eating out. You can look for something that’s heart healthy, so that you’re not tempted to order anything high in fat when you’re at the restaurant. Plus, I like to look ahead of time because I don’t feel rushed into just picking something that looks good, rather than taking my time to look and pick something that’s good for me.
When Looking at the Menu
When looking at the menu, you need to keep in mind that foods that are fried, au gratin, crispy, scalloped, pan-fried, sauteed, buttered, creamed or stuffed are way too high in fat and calories. You should choose meals that are steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted.
If choosing an entree with meat, look for ones that have seafood, chicken or lean meat. Don’t choose fatty meats! If they don’t have chicken without the skin, you can ask that the chef remove the skin for you. Or, you can also take it off when your meal comes, along with any fat you see.
Nowadays, a lot of the menus have items that are marked healthy. Sometimes the items are marked heart healthy, healthy, light, lite, low fat or low sodium. You just have to look for the symbols or asterisk to see what they mean. Also, some menus are offering options for Weight Watchers, which would also be a good choice.
What to Do When Ordering
It would be best to not order anything for before the meal like cocktails, appetizers, bread and butter because they often have lots of fat, sodium and calories.
You should ask for butter, cream cheese, salad dressings, sauces and gravies to be served on the side, so you can just add it on yourself. They usually give you way too much, so it’s better to just add on a little bit yourself. Better yet, don’t order dishes with lots of cheese, sour cream or mayonnaise.
If you’re getting a salad bar, pick fresh greens, raw vegetables, fresh fruits, and garbanzo beans. Make sure your salad dressing is reduced-fat, low-fat, light or fat-free. Don’t add on cheese, or get marinated salads, pasta salads or fruit salads with whipped cream.
You can still have dessert, but your best choices are fresh fruit, fruit ice, sherbet, gelatin and angel food cake. If you have coffee with your dessert, don’t use cream or half-and-half, instead use fat-free or 1% milk.
Remember, you can ask your server how foods are prepared and what ingredients are in them, or to point out which menu choices are healthy. You can even request that the chef leaves off the cheese, butter and oil. There might even be healthy substitutions that your server can offer. Instead of french fries or onion rings, ask if you can get baked potato or vegetables with sour cream and soft margarine on the side. Instead of coleslaw, which is loaded with mayonnaise, ask for a small salad, fruit or vegetables. (I will talk more about these substitutions with specific suggestions for different types of restaurants in a post next month.)
Also, ask if you can get a smaller portion, or if not, share with a friend/family member. If those options aren’t available, ask for a to-go box to be delivered with your food and then as soon as it gets there, immediately put half of your food in there, for you to eat another time. That way you’re not tempted to eat it all!
I found out all of my information from the American Heart Association. They have been a great resource for me.
So, see, with a little bit of effort, you can make sure the meals you eat away from home are part of a heart healthy diet. Isn’t it nice to know eating out is still something you can do? What is your favorite healthy meal to eat out?