Hectic day? Let’s eat out
Some days are just hectic. Who has time to cook? If you are watching your diet, you do not have to abandon good eating habits. A little bit of consciousness of your choices goes a long way. And of course there are so many choices – Chinese, Mexican, American, Italian, and Mediterranean cuisines - beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or lamb. We all have favorites.
The first mindful choice I have to decide is portion. I find it easier to ask for a “to go” box up front as I decide before my order arrives to eat only half of the serving. If I don’t do this, I easily pig out beyond necessity. Some restaurants actually provide the calorie information for each serving. The numbers are usually scary for the whole portion – 1200 calories for an entrée, for example. According to the health experts, the human body cannot efficiently metabolize over 400 calories at one time. The excess is stored as fats. It makes sense to box up at least half of the serving for later consumption. Restrain yourself and take a box home or share with others at your table. And if you are watching your fat, cholesterol, sugar, and salt intake, some restaurants offers healthy choices marked by a “heart” sign.
Generally, the experts offer these quick tips:
•Fish is a healthy choice when dining out. Salmon and tuna for example are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are so good for you. Choose grilled versus fried.
• Restaurant food can be high in sodium or salt. Learn to spot them. Refrain from pickled and smoked foods, broth, cocktail sauce, soy or teriyaki sauce, or MSG.
•Don’t be afraid to ask what’s included in the ingredients, if you are eating in restaurants were foods are cooked to order. Tell your server if you are on a special diet. Often times, the chef can prepare your food using less oil, butter, or no added salt.
• Request for sauce, salad dressing, or gravy on the side so you can control your consumption.
•Ask your server for a healthy substitute such as vegetable or fruit instead of French fries or lowfat milk for your coffee, instead of cream. If no substitution is allowed, simply ask for the undesirable parts to be left off your plate, if you lack the will power to not devour them once they are on you plate.
If Chinese food is your weakness, choose steamed or stir-fried seafood, chicken, bean or vegetable dishes with steamed rice. Egg rolls, sweet and sours, fried rice are heavy on oil, sodium and MSG. Greek foods are also interesting and can be healthy if you stay away from baklava. Hummus and tabouli are better choices. Indian foods offer good choices in tandoori meats, shish kabobs, and spicy vegetarian dishes that can excite your palate. If Mexican food is your favorite, thumbs down on chips, fried tacos, refried beans, quesadillas and chimichangas. OK, have a few chips, but not the whole basket. Grilled shrimp or fish with fresh salsa, or shrimp and chicken fajitas with black bean soup are yummy good. Italian food can be heavy in pasta, but you can choose to have lighter sauces with a heart-healthy glass of red wine. If pizza is your favorite, order a thin crust, pile on vegetable toppings, you may ask for extra sauce, but easy on cheese. Start your meal with a salad, eat a slice of pizza or two, and take the rest home, or share with your company.
Fast food can also offer healthy choices. Nutrition experts say thumbs up for chilled chicken, fajita pitas, turkey sandwiches, baked chips, frozen yogurt, or fruit slices. Oversized jumbo burgers, fried fish and fried chicken sandwiches, French fries, potato chips, and milk shakes are very inviting, though not the right choices, but maybe occasionally.
Food choices are deeply rooted and hard to change, but eating is a habit. You can always choose to have a healthy food habit with the food choices that you prefer. Enjoy eating out and bon appetite.