Whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, you can eat healthfully when dining out or bringing in food, if you know how. The following tips will help you move toward healthier eating as you limit your calories, as well as fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium when eating out.
You Are the Customer
- Ask for what you want. Most restaurants will honor your requests.
- Ask questions. Don’t be intimidated by the menu-your server will be able to tell you how foods are prepared or suggest substitutions on the menu.
- To reduce portion sizes, try ordering appetizers as your main meal or share an entree with a
- friend or family member.
- General tips: Limiting your calories and fat can be easy as long as you know what to order.
Try asking these questions when you call ahead or before you order. Ask the restaurant, whether they would, on request, do the following:
- Serve fat-free (skim) milk rather than whole milk or cream
- Reveal the type of cooking oil used
- Trim visible fat off poultry or meat
- Leave all butter, gravy, or sauces off a side dish or entree
- Serve salad dressing on the side
- Accommodate special requests if made in advance by telephone or in person
Above all, don’t get discouraged. There are usually several healthy choices to choose from at most restaurants.
Reading the Menu
- Choose lower calorie, low-fat cooking methods. Look for terms such as, “steamed in its own juice” (au jus), “garden fresh,” “broiled,” “baked,” “roasted,” “poached,” “tomato juice,” “dry boiled” (in wine or lemon juice), or “lightly sautéed.
- Be aware of foods high in calories, fat, and saturated fat. Watch out for terms such as “butter sauce,” “fried,” “crispy,” “creamed,” “in cream or cheese sauce,” “au gratin,” “au fromage,” “escalloped,” “parmesan,” “hollandaise,” “bearnaise,” “marinated (in oil),” “stewed,” “basted,” “sautéed,” “stir-fried,” “casserole,” “hash,” “prime,” “pot pie,” and “pastry crust.”
Specific Tips for Healthy Choices
- Fresh fruit or small glass of citrus juice
- Whole grain bread, bagel, or English muffin with jelly or honey
- Whole grain cereal with low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk
- Oatmeal with fat-free milk topped with fruit
- Omelet made with egg whites or egg substitute
- Multigrain pancakes without butter on top
- Fat-free yogurt (Try adding cereal or fresh fruit.)
- Water with lemon
- Flavored sparkling water (noncaloric)
- Juice spritzer (half fruit juice and half sparkling water)
- Iced tea
- Tomato juice (reduced sodium)
Most bread and bread sticks are low in calories and low in fat. The calories add up when you add butter, margarine, or olive oil to the bread. Also, eating a lot of bread in addition to your meal will fill you up with extra unwanted calories and not leave enough room for fruits and vegetables.
- Steamed seafood
- Shrimp cocktail (limit cocktail sauce—it’s high in sodium). If you are on a cholesterol-lowering diet, eat shrimp and other shellfish in moderation.
- Melons or fresh fruit
- Bean soups
- Salad with reduced fat dressing (or add lemon juice or vinegar)
- Poultry, fish, shellfish, and vegetable dishes are healthy choices
- Pasta with red sauce or with vegetables (primavera)
- Look for terms such as “baked,” “broiled,” “steamed,” “poached,” “lightly sauteed,” or “stir-fried”
- Ask for sauces and dressings on the side
- Limit the amount of butter, margarine, and salt you use at the table
- Fresh greens, lettuce, and spinach
- Fresh vegetables—tomato, mushroom, carrots, cucumber, peppers, onion, radishes, and broccoli
- Beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans
- Skip the nonvegetable choices: deli meats, bacon, egg, cheese, croutons
- Choose lower calorie, reduced fat, or fat-free dressing; lemon juice; or vinegar
- Vegetables and starches (rice, potato, noodles) make good additions to meals and can also be combined for a lower calorie alternative to higher calorie entrees
- Ask for side dishes without butter or margarine
- Ask for mustard, salsa, or low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream or butter
- Fresh fruit
- Fat-free frozen yogurt
- Sherbet or fruit sorbet (these are usually fat-free, but check the calorie content)
- Try sharing a dessert
- Ask for low-fat milk for your coffee (instead of cream or half-and-half)
SOURCE: National Institutes of Health – Aim for a Healthy Weight – Publication No. 05-5213. Aug. 2015. (www.nhlbi.nih.gov)