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Dining out, eating on the go and overeating are just a few of the reasons why Americans are becoming increasingly overweight and obese, which puts them at higher risk for heart disease. A hearty meal at your favorite restaurant can be anything but hearthealthy, yet you do not have to stay home and cook every night. Palmetto Health Heart Hospital cardiovascular dietitian Roberta Jupp has put together a Restaurant Survival Guide so you can enjoy restaurant dining guilt-free.
Before arriving at the restaurant, keep the following goals in mind:
• Eat heart-healthy foods
• Control portion size
• Stop eating before feeling overly full
“Don’t be a member of the ‘Clean Plate Club.’ Most restaurant meals contain about two to three portions,” explains Jupp. “Also, refrain from arriving at the restaurant famished, which increases your chances of overeating.”
When you arrive, check the menu for healthy choices before sitting down. If there are none, you may want to choose another restaurant.
Ordering your meal
Ask your server about substitution options, such as replacing sauces with healthier alternatives like salsa, mustard or balsamic vinegar.
Other substitutions to consider:
• Meals prepared in cooking wine or broth instead of oils
• Whole wheat pasta or bread instead of white
• Brown or wild rice instead of white
• Plain baked potato with salsa or a sweet potato instead of one “loaded” with butter and sour cream.
• Steamed or grilled vegetables instead of sautéed in fat.
Enjoying happy hour
Before drinking or eating anything, have an eight-ounce glass of water. Avoid sugary drinks like amaretto sours or pina coladas. When ordering, consider these healthy options:
• Water with a twist of lemon or lime or splash of juice
• Red wine
• Wine spritzer
• Straight drink mixed with water, diet soda or tonic
• Decaffeinated coffee
• Unsweetened tea (sweeten with Splenda® or other sugar substitute)
• Low-fat milk
Choosing an appetizer
Try appetizers served with non-fat sauces like chili sauce, ketchup or horseradish. Choose the shrimp cocktail, clear soup or consommé, or crudités (vegetables). Consider having the appetizer as your entree. The portions are usually smaller.
Savoring a salad
Choose dark leafy greens salads without cheese, eggs or bacon and with dressing on the side. Opt for any fat-free dressings or season your salad with lemon wedges and balsamic vinegar.
Enter the entree
Choose an entree that is roasted, blackened, poached, steamed or boiled, or ask that it be made in one of those ways. Avoid fried foods, except for stir-fries with canola or olive oil.
To control portion size, request a small cut of meat or fish. If they do not have anything under six ounces—about the size of a deck of cards—then consider sharing the entree or ask for a to-go box. Pack up half your meal before you take your first bite.
“During dinner, take breaks by placing your fork or spoon on the table and stop eating if you feel full at any point,” recommends Jupp.
Dessert is hard to resist, so don’t. Order one dessert for your entire party to share. Or, ask your server for fresh fruit.
Remember, the more fresh and natural the food, the better. Bon Appetit!