You can still eat healthy and enjoy dining out. Many restaurants offer lighter menu choices. Just watch out for excess fat or sugars by asking for your sauces “on the side.” This way you can be in charge of what you eat.
There are several tricks that you can use to keep you loyal to your diet even when you are dining out. Even the fast food restaurants are stepping their menus up to offer low-fat alternatives.
Select foods that closely resemble your new diet. Lean meats, fish or seafood, baked or broiled are great choices. Always eat a small salad or sliced tomato with any red meat. The tomato will help to digest the protein and help to relieve the gas that sometimes results from eating meat.
Don’t be shy about asking how foods are prepared. When possible, make special requests about the preparation.
Choose fresh sautéed veggies, salad or couscous as an accompaniment. Stay away from baked potatoes unless you eat it plain, but pay attention to the size! Restaurant sized baked potatoes can sometimes be enough for two people.
Be careful of that breadbasket that the server drops on your table. As we talked about in the 2nd part of Explaining the Diet Principles, foods with a high level of refined and processed carbohydrates raise sugar levels very quickly, and this includes most breads.
Eating an apple a half hour or an hour before leaving the house is an effective way to ensure that you don’t overeat when dining out. If you eat an apple shortly before going to a restaurant, it will help to stave off the hunger and keep you from eating all the bread in the bread basket while waiting for your food.
If you love bread and hate to resist such a treat when you go out to eat, choose whole wheat, bread, watch your portion size and go easy, easy on any butter that you spread on.
Once you get accustomed to eating healthy, foods that are high in fat and refined carbohydrates will appeal less to you than they previously did. Some things to remember when eating out that will help to keep you focused on your healthy food diet, especially when you are trying to lose weight.
• Fried, au gratin, crispy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed or stuffed foods are high in fat and calories. Instead, look for steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted foods. If you’re not sure about a certain dish, ask your server how it’s prepared. You can request that visible fat be trimmed from meat and skin be removed from poultry before cooking.
• Ask that your meal be prepared with vegetable oil (made from canola, olive, corn, soy, sunflower or safflower) or soft margarine instead of butter. Ask for soft margarine for your bread.
• High-sodium foods include those that are pickled, in cocktail sauce, smoked, in broth or au jus or in soy or teriyaki sauce. Request that your food be prepared without any added salt or MSG.
• Ask that gravy, sauces and dressings be served on the side, so you can control the amount you eat or skip them completely.
• Ask if the restaurant has fat-free or 1 percent milk instead of whole milk.
• When your waiter brings the dessert cart around, as if you can have fruit or sherbet instead of high-fat pastries and ice creams. Most restaurants will be glad to fulfill your request.
Remember that leftovers make great snacks. I can never finish the large meals that I get at restaurants, so instead of trying to stuff myself, I take home a portion to enjoy the next day. A great way to keep from over-eating, is to “eye out” half of your meal to eat at the restaurant and bring the other half home. Not only will you save money this way; but also you’ll save yourself a bunch of calories by dividing your meal in half.
You’ll leave the restaurant satisfied, but not overly stuffed and with a great meal that you can savor for tomorrow. Best of all, you won’t be carrying around all those guilty feelings about overeating because you will have mastered that feat as well.
Now, a word or two about food safety. It is extremely important for your health that you follow FDA safety guidelines when storing, preparing, cooking and reheating food.
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods must be kept at 140˚ or above. Cold foods must be kept at 40˚ or below. Bacteria will grow rapidly between the danger zone of 40˚ and 140˚.
Discard all perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. After that time, the temperature of the food has gone into the danger zone.
So, after a meal out, only bring home leftovers if you are headed straight home or bring a cooler to store your food until you get home.
Remove the foods from the Styrofoam container and refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers immediately when you get home. The shallow container allows the food to cool off quicker thus avoiding the danger zone. Refrigerate cooked foods no longer than 3 to 4 days.
Cooked foods that have been stored in the refrigerator should only be re-heated once. For best results, scoop out your serving onto another dish for re-heating, that way you can easily refrigerate the remainder that is still in the container.
Set your oven to at least 325˚ when reheating your take home foods. When microwaving, be sure to stir and rotate your dish for even heating, Remove your food from the Styrofoam container before putting it into the microwave. Use a microwave-safe dish and cover with a paper towel to keep food particles from exploding all over the inside of the oven.
If the food has a strange smell or tastes funny to you, don’t eat it. Discarding spoiled food is not the same as wasting food.
Remember: When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
Tell us about your dining out diet successes in the comment space below: