Dine Out Without Clogging Your Arteries

Keep calories and fat in check with these pointers.

An Unhealthy Ritual

Eating out has become a ritual in our busy lives. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly harder to dine at restaurants and maintain a healthy diet. Learn to navigate your favorite menus by keeping these simple pointers in mind.

From longer workdays to busy after school schedules, most people don’t have the time to prepare a home cooked meal. Given today’s “on-the-go” lifestyle it may come as no surprise that the typical American eats out about four times a week. The problem with dining out is that, with the ironic exception of fast-food restaurants, there’s rarely any nutritional information available on menus. And most restaurant food isn’t as healthful as what you’d prepare at home.

Nutrition researchers at the University of Memphis found that women who ate out 6 to 13 times a week consumed about 300 more calories, 19 more grams of fat, and 400 milligrams of sodium than women who are out five times a week on average. Furthermore, another survey found that those who dined out ate up to 25 percent fewer fruits and vegetables than those who ate at home.

Fortunately, a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to give up dining out for good. In fact, the advantage of eating out is that you can plan ahead in terms of what you’ll order. By learning how to navigate restaurant menus, you can dine out while keeping calories and fat in check.

Conquering the Chains
From Applebee’s to Red Lobster, the chaining of American eateries has taken hold across the country. Unfortunately while these restaurants offer a convenient meal, many seem to specialize in fatty foods. Even a seemingly innocuous Chinese chicken salad often comes with chunks of fried chicken. Considering a patty melt? Assuming it comes with a side of fries, you could be getting an astounding 2,000 calories along with more than 50 grams of fat, more than 25 of them saturated. And you know those trendy blooming onions served at many steakhouses these days? The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found they contain 2,100 calories and 18 grams of trans fat.

When eating out, bigger is not always better :
Another major nutritional minefield is portion size. A CSPI survey found that restaurants often serve two to three times more than food labels list as a serving.

These statistics can make healthy eating seem like an impossible task. Keep these top five points in mind to make it through your dining-out meal with your arteries intact

Ask for a doggie bag when you place your order: Put half in the box, close it up, and dine happily on the rest with the knowledge that you’ve now got lunch or dinner for tomorrow. Or split an entrée.

Read between the lines : Any menu description that uses the words fried, creamy breaded, crisp, or stuffed is likely loaded with hidden fats Рmuch of it saturated or hydrogenated. Also skip anything saut̩ed in butter or served with a cream or cheese sauce (au gratin). And stay away from anything fried. Choose items that are baked or grilled instead.

Practice safe salads : Salads are a great way to get your vegetables at a restaurant, but many are loaded with hidden hazards: creamy dressings, bacon bits, fried noodles, etc. The typical Caesar salad in most restaurants contains 36 grams of fat. The solution? Ask for a salad with an oil-based dressing on the side, then spoon the dressing on yourself. Better yet, dip your fork in the dressing, then spear a piece of lettuce.

Change the menu : Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter for a change in how your food is prepared. For instance, request that the salmon be grilled with a brushing of olive oil instead of butter, or ask for your pasta with steamed vegetables and a bit of olive oil instead of the cream sauce. If your meal comes with fries, ask for a side of steamed vegetables or wild rice instead.

Find the vegetables : It’s all too easy to get through an entire restaurant meal and realize you haven’t eaten a vegetable or fruit (and no, we’re not going to count the French fries or onion rings). So make sure you get a salad, stir-fry, or other entrée that includes veggies or fruit.

From : Cut Your Cholesterol

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