Hec­tic day? Let’s eat out

Antelope Valley Press - - VALLEY LIFE - Elvie Ancheta

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.

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