Monday, 22 April 2013

Eating Out

Eating out is hard to navigate sometimes and it can feel awkward to be the one who makes the special requests and alterations. Sometimes one can be reluctant to ask questions about how food is prepared and whether they can change things for you...then remaining assertive when/if they do not prepare things the way you requested - usually you are out with friends and family who can give you exasperated looks. But don't let that put you is crucial that you navigate restaurants with caution when you are trying to stay healthy or lose weight as chefs often have a love for cooking things in a heap of fat - of course because it tastes better that way! 

Controlling portions is important. If you wish to order an entre; share it. Set aside half of you main in a to-go box, or ask what the portion sizes are for the mains and ask for less if they are generous - like Lone Star for example. 

I research the restaurant online before going. If they have the menu available online, you can research each option to find the best choice - but one that will also satisfy you. I try to find a balance between health and my cravings. Plan what you will consume before you get there; will you have an entre, dessert, alcohol etc. I often decide to skip the entre so I can have some desert as I have a weakness for sweet things. Because I love dessert so much, I can live without that glass of wine and just stick with water - saving me approximately 120 calories with that one choice! I also have a light snack like an apple or a couple of vita-wheats with some low fat cheese before i leave home so I can last without nibbling until the main comes out which can sometimes take up to an hour. 

Tips to keep in mind when you’re dining out:

  • 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 waiter/waitress how it’s prepared. 
  • Request that your meal be prepared with vegetable oil (made from canola, olive, corn, soy, sunflower) or soft margarine instead of butter.
  • Have gravy, sauces and dressings 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.
Try to order first...listening to others choices may tempt you. If I like a meal but it has an element like chips as a side or a creamy dressing, I ask for light vinaigrette on the side and to replace the fries with steamed vegetables or salad. Ask for things to be cooked in less oil and opt for less meat if you feel like a meat dish. Approximately 100g or a palm size portion is what you need; however most restaurants serve portions well over 200g - especially stone grill!

If you are more of an entre person, try to choose things like salads and soups - but be aware and ask if the soup is prepared with cream...AVOID everything with the word creamy in it!

  • Bad preparation words = buttery, breaded, buttered, fried, pan-fried, creamed, scalloped, au gratin, a la mode.
  • Good preparation words = grilled, baked, steamed, broiled, poached, stir-fried, roasted, blackened.
  • Marinara and tomato-based sauces are usually more flavorful and healthier than creamy sauces and gravies. As a rule of thumb, red is usually better than white or yellow.
  • Get all sauces, gravies and creams on the side so you can add to taste.
  • Even better, rely more on herbs and spices to flavor your food. Become familiar with your favourites and ask for them by name.
  • If you must order pasta with a cream sauce, ask the kitchen to go light on the sauce.
  • Know your fatty and lean meats. Pork: fairly lean except sausage, bacon, and ribs. Fish: all fairly lean or contain healthy fat. Chicken: fairly lean especially when skin and fat is removed, and white is leaner that dark meat. Ground beef products (in order of most to least fat): ground beef. Eye of round and roasts are leaner, while steaks and ribs have more fat.
  • Don’t eat the skin of chicken, turkey or duck. You can save yourself loads of fat and calories with this simple step.
  • Ask for your fish or meat to be baked, with no extra butter.
  • Vegetarian options are not always lower in calories if they’re loaded with cheese, nuts and other non-vegetable ingredients.
  • Remember, a salad and a healthy appetiser can make a great meal
  • Order as many vegetable options as possible. Steamed, stewed or boiled veggies are best, with little or no added butter or oil. Avoid butter and cheese sauces. Watch out for anything “creamed” or in casserole form.
  • Potato options are good too. Stick with baked, boiled or roasted potatoes instead of fried potatoes, such as chips, fries or hash browns.
  • The loaded baked potato can be a loaded problem. Instead of butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon. Try salsa, chives, pepper, margarine, low-fat sour cream, broccoli or salad bar veggies.
  • Coleslaw is often mistaken for a healthy option, when in actuality it can be really high in calories.
  • Fruit or fruit salad can make a sweet side dish (and might subside any craving for dessert). If there is no fruit cup side listed on the menu, the kitchen may still have the ingredients.
  • Plain rice or noodles is better than anything fried or covered in creamy sauce or gravy. A tomato-based sauce can be added as well.
  • Ask for natural yogurt or to hold the cream on your dessert and order things like meringue and sorbet. If there is nothing on the menu that you simply MUST consume then don't bother.....I have some ice cream at home in the freezer that I can control the portion and this choice also saves you money.
Even though it may seem like hard work, the way you feel after making those good choices is totally worth it and it gets easier as you get more skilled at navigating menus. Don't let others eating with you influence you, often they feel guilty when they see you eating well and subconsciously want to sabotage you...stay strong!
I have things like ribs, macaroni cheese, lasagna and other 'naughty' foods at home where I can control portions, cooking oils and make ingredient substitutions. I believe in indulging in a controlled environment rather than throwing all of your diet goals out the window just because your out, or it's a special occasion...

All the best...
Anna :)


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