Whether you have a job that requires wining and dining clients, a family whose “get togethers” mean a big meal out, or simply have no skills in the kitchen, restaurant food can add inches to your waistline. Check out these fool-proof diet tips for eating out!
Fortunately, eating healthy out doesn’t have to mean just plain steamed vegetables and brown rice. The Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT, co-authors of The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat share their tips on keeping the flavor in and the calories out.
Sticking to a healthy diet while eating out
Be in the know
Understanding how to make smart menu substitutions is one of the smartest things you can do. Tammy says, “Restaurant staff really aim to please. Unless the menu says “no substitutions,” most restaurants are accommodating.” If you’re polite to your server they will probably be happier to accommodate you.
Go easy on the sauce
“The most important tip when eating out is to order sauces, dressings and condiments on the side. We’ve all heard this before, but it can truly save hundreds of calories,” says Lyssie. Since most sauces are filled with oil, sour cream, sugar, butter, or cream, or a combination of these, they are very calorically rich. Lyssie warns, “Be careful not to dump the entire side of sauce onto your meal. Use the teaspoon to measure one or two scoops, as a general rule.” Some lower calorie sauce exceptions to this include red sauce and fresh veggie or fruit-based salsa.
Size does matter
Following the “everything in moderation” mantra can get you far, depending on how closely you adhere to it. According to Lyssie, “Portion size is critical. Restaurants tend to serve a much larger portion than one would normally eat at a meal, which can leave you with a whole day’s worth of food at one sitting.” In this case, do the hand test. Carb-filled foods, such as pasta and rice, should be limited to the size of your fist. Match proteins up, such as salmon or steak, to the size and thickness of your palm. When portioning veggies, the more the better, as long as they’re not drenched in butter, oil or cream.
Chinese, if you please
While Chinese food conjures up images of deep fried meats, sugary sauces and starchy dumplings, other widely available dishes include steamed veggies, unbreaded meats and broth-based soups. If the entrée selections don’t contain a lot of veggies, the Nutrition Twins always add an order of steamed veggies and mix them directly into the meal so they still get the same flavorful satisfaction while saving big on calories.
Some of the highest calorie cuisines include French and East Indian. If you take away the butter and cream based sauces, puff pastry wraps and fat-braised meats, much of the essence and flavor of the food is taken away. Though Indian food includes a lot of nutritious vegetables and legumes, the coconut milk, ghee, and oil added to most dishes ahead of time aren’t able to be substituted upon request.