By Monique Richard MS, RDN, LDN
Summertime often brings traveling and with that brings more eating out. It’s just as important to make healthy eating a priority on the road as it is at home. Remember, when you make eating healthy a distant priority—at any time—it may show up as extra pounds on the scale, at the hospital, or in the form of some other not so pleasant have-to-tend-to-immediately obstacle keeping you from attaining your goals.
Just like when cooking at home, using the freshest ingredients, omitting salt, and controlling portion size and cooking methods are just as important when dining out. Keeping some guidelines in mind as you peruse the menu to order will also allow you to gear up and be a more health conscious consumer.
In fast-food and dine-in restaurants remember:
• Just because the menu says it has a certain amount of calories, fat, salt, or sugar does not mean it is made absolutely to that standard every time or that it is 100% accurate. You cannot control the chef, sous chef, or line cook from the nuances they may see fit to make your meal delicious and you coming back for more.
• The more beige colored the plate, usually the more unhealthy. Think about it. . . KFC, Long John Silvers, Burger King, and on and on…you have French fries—beige, hamburger bun—beige, fried fish—beige, fried chicken—beige. OK, call it golden brown if you want, but it means the same thing to the health of your heart—not good! Go for grilled, broiled, or roasted meat in fish if you have to have it. Add some color to your plate. Add some green salad, red tomatoes, orange carrots, or fruit if possible. The more colorful and varied your plate, the better for all your organs.
• Sauces, dressings, gravies, and dips are usually loaded with calories and fat. Even when ordering a salad, the dressing it is drenched in may make it just as bad (calorie-and fat-wise) as a burger. Look for lighter dressings and sauces. Ask your server questions about it or ask for it on the side. In fast-food establishments, just read the condiment labels; you may be tossing that condiment in the trash upon doing so.
• Be aware of hidden fat and calorie culprits. Croutons or shredded cheese on salads can be disastrous as well as cheese, butter, sour cream, and bacon on baked potatoes.
• Veer away from items sautéed in oil, butter, or cream sauces.
• The portion sizes in restaurants and fast-food joints are easily twice what one person needs at one sitting. Insist on smaller portions or immediately put half your meal in a to-go box for tomorrow’s lunch.
• The breadbasket, happy hour specials, and half-off appetizers can add up to be enough calories for an entire meal. Be selective and splurge once or twice a month, but not regularly.
• Everyone want to get more for their hard earned moolah, but more what—grease? Pass on the “It’s only 25 cents to supersize it” or “Two for one pizza night”. Studies have consistently shown that we eat more when more is in front of us. Try ordering off the child’s menu or just say no and ask what kind of healthy options they have a deal on.
It never hurts to ask or be aware of what you are putting into your mouth. After all, it is your health. Take control of what you can and be lean, green, and savvy. If you need more specific tips, direction, resources or suggestions, schedule a visit with a registered dietitian (RDN) nutritionist who can help teach you about nutrition wherever it may come from.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in the July issue on making specific changes to your restaurant repertoire, cutting calories, fat, salt, and keeping the taste and convenience.
State of Franklin Healthcare Associates
301 Med Tech Parkway – Suite 180,
Johnson City, TN 37604