10 Tricks to Eating Healthy While Eating Out
There are nearly 200,000 “table side” restaurants in India today, a number that continues to grow. But like fast-food outlets, these dining establishments can be ticking time bombs when it comes to nutritional health. Government surveys find that the food you typically eat when you’re not home is nutritionally worse in every way than the food you eat at home.Nearly all the chains have added healthier options to their menus—if you know how to look for them. You can also rely on these tips to help making eating out a healthier treat.
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It can be done, though, and learning to do it is a survival skill. That’s because we eat out — or have takeout meals — so often now that it’s a staple of our lives.The first step is to accept how commonly you eat meals you haven’t made yourself, then plan to order better.
1. Ask for it your way
Dining out is no time to be a meek consumer, notes Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and coauthor of the book Restaurant Confidential. “You need to be an assertive consumer by asking for changes on the menu,” he says. For instance, if an item is fried, ask for it grilled. If it comes with french fries, ask for a side of veggies instead. Ask for a smaller portion of the meat and a larger portion of the salad; for salad instead of coleslaw; baked potato instead of fried. “Just assume you can have the food prepared the way you want it,” says Dr. Jacobson. “Very often, the restaurant will cooperate.”
2. Ask to “triple the vegetables, please.
” Often a side of vegetables in a restaurant is really like garnish—a carrot and a forkful of squash. When ordering, ask for three or four times the normal serving of veggies, and offer to pay extra.”
3. Ask how the food was prepared; don’t go by the menu.
For instance, cholesterol-free does not mean fat-free; the dish could still be filled with calorie-dense oil. Neither does “lite” necessarily mean light in calories or fat.
4. Order from the “healthy, light, low fat” entrées.
” Most chains will even list the calories and nutritional content of such foods. Applebee’s, for instance, offers approved Weight Watchers options, Bennigan’s has its Health Club entrées (which it will serve in half portions), and Ruby Tuesday lists the nutritional information for its entire menu.
5. Beware of the low-carb options.
Restaurant chains have jumped on the low-carb bandwagon, offering numerous low-carb options on their menu. But low-carb doesn’t mean low-cal. For instance, at Ruby Tuesday the Low-Carb New Orleans Seafood packs 710 calories and 42 grams of fat—ouch! A much better bet—the Low Carb Veggie Platter—leaves you with just 297 calories and 16 grams of fat.
6. Ask to box half your entrée
before it ever gets to the table. Or split an entrée with your dining partner. A CSPI survey found that restaurants often serve two to three times more than food labels list as a serving.
7. Try double appetizers.
If there is a nice selection of seafood- and vegetable-based appetizers, consider skipping the entrée and having two appetizers for your meal. Often, that is more than enough food to fill you up.
8. Order a salad before ordering anything else on the menu.
Scientists at Pennsylvania State University found that volunteers who ate a big veggie salad before the main course ate fewer calories overall than those who didn’t have a first-course salad, notes Novick.
9.But remember: Salads shouldn’t be fatty.
This is a vegetable course—keep it tasty but healthy. That means avoiding anything in a creamy sauce (coleslaw, pasta salads, and potato salads), and skipping the bacon bits and fried noodles. Instead, load up on the raw vegetables, treat yourself to a few well-drained marinated vegetables (artichoke hearts, red peppers, or mushrooms), and for a change, add in some fruit or nuts. Indeed, fruits such as mango, kiwi, cantaloupe, and pear are often the secret ingredient in four-star salads.
10. Do the fork dip.
The best way to combine salad dressing with salad? Get your dressing on the side, in a small bowl. Dip your empty fork into the dressing, then skewer a forkful of salad. You’ll be surprised at how this tastes just right, and how little dressing you’ll use. Plus, your lettuce won’t wilt and drown in a sea of oil.