by Hope Warshaw, M.M.Sc., R.D., C.D.E.
From cheese sauce to super-sized portions, restaurant meals can sabotage healthy eating. But don't let that keep you at home.
You can arm yourself with the tools you need to keep your resolutions and live a healthy lifestyle. In fact, you can learn the following phrases to help you and your family:
• "Is it possible to hold the...?"
• "Dressing on the side, please."
• "Can that be grilled in olive oil?"
• "Do you have whole-grain bread?"
• "Bring my appetizer as a main course, please."
• "Could you split the entree in the kitchen?"
• "When you bring dessert, bring enough spoons - and put it in the middle of the table."
Don't think that every time you eat out you have a special license to eat as much as you want. After all, how many times in the past week did you eat a meal that was prepared by someone else outside your home? When you're out, think about what you choose from the menu; is it both healthful and enjoyable? If not, consider changing the restaurants you frequent, the foods you choose and how much you eat. Build your positive experiences and confidence will follow.
Do you have a handful of favorite restaurants in your neighborhood? How many of them have healthy choices that you like? If the answer is not many, consider looking for some new haunts. When you approach a restaurant that's new to you, feel free to ask for a menu. Review it for healthy options before you sit down or place a take-out order.
Olympic sprinters visualize crossing the finish line in front of their competitors. You can use the same technique at a favorite restaurant. On your way, think about what healthy food you might order. Imagine waving away the menu -- you've seen it a hundred times, after all -- and asking for something healthy. Then visualize walking out of the restaurant feeling happy and satisfied. Enter the restaurant with that scene in your mind.
Fat, and all the calories it brings, lurks in, on and around the menu, and on the table. At many restaurants, before you make your order you may find high fat, high-calories items such as bread with butter or olive oil, deep-fried tortilla chips or Chinese noodles at your table. If you think you'll be tempted, keep them out of arm's reach. This is why it's a good idea not to show up at a restaurant too hungry!Fat, and all the calories it brings, lurks in, on and around the menu, and on the table.
During your meal, watch out for large amounts of salad dressing, sour cream, mayonnaise or Parmesan cheese as these all add fat to the meal. Ask for spreads and sauces to be served on the side and use sparingly. Inspect menus for food that contain cheese sauce, cream sauce, butter, oil, avocado, high-fat cuts of meat or sausage. Be wary of phrases like "deep-fried," "golden brown" and "crispy." Remember this high-fat hit list:
• Fettuccine Alfredo
• Chicken pot pie
• Tuna and chicken salad (can be okay depending on preparation; ask if there's a lot of mayo)
Is your plate SAD? The Standard American Diet includes lots of high-fat animal protein foods, but not many whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Most restaurant meals mimic that unhealthful pattern. Turn it around! When you order, visualize a plate where meat, chicken or fish takes up only one quarter of the space. Half the plate should be vegetables and/or fruits, about one quarter protein (no more than 3 or 4 oz cooked), and one quarter starchy foods. Ask for a green salad or steamed veggies so you can reach that goal.
The best way to eat less is to order less. Look for words like "regular," "small," "single," "appetizer" or "kiddie." Order with your stomach in mind, not your eyes.