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Tips for Dining Out

Published in Recipes, Healthy Eating Tips Author: CentraCare

“Dining Out Quick Tips” by Zonya Foco, RD, CHFI, CSP -

When dining Mexican

  • Take just 5 to 10 chips and ask to have the basket removed. Inquire about baked corn tortillas. They’re delicious!
  • Go for lots of red or green salsa instead of chile con queso (salsa cheese dip).
  • Order al carbon (grilled) with an extra side of the pico de gallo (vegetable relish).
  • Inquire about whole-wheat tortillas, brown rice, reduced fat cheese, light sour cream and low-fat dressings.
  • Order health mex or fresh mex whenever available.
  • Choose guacamole in limited amount instead of sour cream or extra cheese.
  • Substitute black beans or a side salad for Mexican rice.
  • Choose charra or charro beans instead of refried beans.
  • Order the soft shell chicken tacos instead of the hard shell with beef.
  • Use red chile sauce or ranchero sauce instead of sour cream or meat chile sauce.
  • Skip the chalupa (meat filled fried corn tortilla) and sopaipilla (deep fried dessert).

When it’s Pizza night

  • Choose a thin crust when whole-grain crusts are not available.
  • Order the medium instead of the large. It’s a sneaky portion-control strategy that saves approximately 60 calories per slice.
  • The best toppings include vegetables, pineapple and olives (avoid olives if you must limit sodium).
  • Forgoing the pig-fat puddles (pepperoni) saves you 36 calories, 3 grams of fat and 136 milligrams of sodium per slice!
  • If you insist on a meat topping, choose chicken or Canadian bacon. However, the sodium does increase 100 milligrams per slice with the Canadian bacon!
  • Practice not saying “double cheese.”
  • Make it a rule to eat a large salad before your pizza arrives. You’ll find yourself able to stop at just a few slices and happy to wrap the leftovers.

When it’s “Let’s meet for Coffee”

  • Order the smallest size-this is usually 12 ounces.
  • Order a fancy coffee OR dessert, not both. These coffees ARE DESSERT!
  • Substitute soymilk or skim milk for whole milk.
  • Ask for sugar-free syrups and skip dessert toppings, such as caramel, chocolate and whipped cream.
  • Skip the cakes, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, Danishes and brownies. Some of these have more than 600 calories each!
  • Skip the frappuccino, hot chocolate and eggnog.
  • If hungry, consider a small cookie or biscotti to complement your coffee or tea.

When dinner includes “Drinks”

  • Think before you drink. Ask yourself, “do I want to EAT my calories or DRINK my calories?”
  • Skip frozen drinks and ice cream drinks-these are high in fat, carbohydrates and calories.
  • Choose light beers instead of regular or dark beers.
  • Consider a wine or juice spritzer followed by water with lemon.
  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day for a woman and two for a man. Once drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits (80 proof).
  • You cannot save your drinks for one occasion. More than 4 drinks in a row for a man (3 for a woman) is considered binge drinking and is harmful to your health.

When choosing a soft drink

  • Order a large glass of water with all meals and drink it all.
  • Order a fruit juice with club soda for a “healthy pop.”
  • Skip the refills unless it’s water.
  • Skip the “super size,” it’s a SUPER WAIST!
  • Keep both regular AND diet sodas to special occasions. Not only does the sugar promote tooth decay, but the soda acids erode tooth enamel and promote osteoporosis.

When dining out for breakfast

  • Order whole-wheat toast “dry.” Use jam instead of butter.
  • Consider hash browns OR toast OR half portions of each.
  • Enjoy eggs, but consider egg substitutes if you eat them more than 3 times per week.
  • Choose a vegetable omelet and consider holding the cheese.
  • Request whole-wheat or buckwheat pancakes and keep syrup on the side for lightly dipping.
  • Forgo meat altogether or order lean ham, Canadian bacon or turkey sausage.
  • Order a platter of melon or berries or a 6-ounce glass of 100% fruit juice or tomato juice.
  • Try a whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and preserves instead of a croissant or Danish.
  • Consider oatmeal with nuts and raisins.

When dining at a family restaurant

  • Look for menu items that include a large portion of vegetables or a large salad.
  • Choose vegetarian entrées, fish or poultry.
  • Instead of prime rib, select the smallest size sirloin or filet mignon.
  • Inquire about whole-grain breads, pasta and brown rice (these are the good carbs), then choose a portion the size of your fist.
  • Order a baked sweet potato or corn on the cob for a change.

When dining at a seafood house

  • Both broiled fish and shellfish are low in artery-clogging saturated fat.
  • The entrées highest in the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, in descending order are: Norwegian Salmon, Mackerel, Catfish, Rainbow Trout, Yellow Fin Tuna, Sockeye Salmon, Swordfish and Ocean Perch.
  • Avoid “breaded,” which means “fried,” which means trans fat.
  • Broiled in butter means “swimming” in butter. Ask for “dry broiled or grilled.”
  • Order the lunch portion even if it’s dinnertime.
  • For dipping the seafood, try cocktail sauce instead of melted butter or tartar sauce.
  • Order the seasoned broccoli over the fresh buttered vegetables and decrease the fat and calories.
  • Pass on the biscuits. They are high in fat and calories.

When dining Italian

  • To keep a cap on carbs, choose bread OR pasta OR half portions of each.
  • Order marinara, tomato or red clam sauce instead of a white sauce and request whole-wheat pasta.
  • Order minestrone soup instead of a cream-based soup. Add a salad and it’s a complete meal.
  • Order griglia (grilled) meats and vegetables.
  • Skip any entrée with artery-clogging cream, pesto, Alfredo or carbonara sauces.
  • Skip frito misto (mixed fried), parmigiana and/or polenta.
  • If you’ve saved room, consider Italian sorbetto topped with fresh berries for dessert.

When dining Chinese

  • Choose entrées that include lots of vegetables or order extra vegetables.
  • Order steamed, braised or stir-fried chicken, seafood or tofu.
  • Practice saying “hold the MSG” and “light on the oil.”
  • Opt for the egg drop or hot and sour soup instead of wonton. If watching sodium, skip all three.
  • Ask for brown rice. Your second best choice is steamed white rice. By skipping fried rice, you save fat, calories AND sodium.
  • Eat only ½ cup of rice for every 1 cup of vegetable-rich entrée.
  • Use chopsticks. You’ll eat slower and feel full sooner.
  • Skip the egg roll or only eat the inside veggies. Better yet, choose the steamed spring rolls.
  • Enjoy the fortune cookie instead of the almond cookies.