The Edwards-Elmhurst Health’s Healthy Living Blog suggests that grabbing carry-out can feel like a lifesaver after a hectic day of work and family life. It’s even more of a break when eating out means being waited on at a full-service restaurant.
The good news is that you don’t have to invite guilt along to your dinner out, even if you’re trying to keep to a heart healthy diet.
“Heart healthy” means you’re sticking to a calorie level that helps keep you at a healthy weight. It also limits sodium, unhealthy fats, added sugars and alcohol. Unhealthy fats include saturated fats (in whole dairy, fatty cuts of meat, butter and fried foods) and trans fats (found in some cookies, chips and other packaged goods).
Many restaurants offer huge portions and numerous salt- and fat-laden dishes. Some restaurant items exceed the 2,300 milligram sodium limit recommended for a whole day.
Try these tips for healthy, enjoyable and regret-free dining out:
Ask for a doggie bag
- Portion control is not only good for weight management, it also helps cut fat and sodium consumption. Plan to put part of your dinner in a carry-out box at the beginning of your meal, or split an entrée with your dinner companion.
- Eat a healthy snack mid-afternoon and you’ll find it easier to stash away the excess portion at dinner.
- Watch alcohol consumption. The recommended limit is one drink per day for women and two for men.
Good choices and trade-offs
- Check the nutrition information that’s available on many casual restaurants’ websites. Look for menu options that are lower in fat and sodium and high in nutrients. Also check online articles listing the “best” and “worst” choices at popular restaurants.
- Some restaurants are willing to substitute healthy alternatives for the standard fare, but you may need to ask your wait staff about their policy. Consider requesting an extra vegetable instead of french fries; chicken or fish that’s broiled or baked instead of fried; brown instead of white rice; fruit instead of a cookie; olive oil/vinegar dressing instead of a creamy option.
- Make deals with yourself. If you know you’re going out to a special restaurant in the evening, put some extra time and effort into your workout that day. If you want to have dessert that night, consider passing up the dinner rolls and appetizer.It’s not just about what you avoid eating…
- Include in your diet the good kinds of fat found in canola and olive oils, avocados, nuts and seeds. Add some of these items to your bowl at the salad bar.
- Incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables in your meals when possible. They contain soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels.
- Choose lean sources of protein, such as low-fat dairy, skinless chicken and fish, lean meats, soy products, eggs (up to six a week), and legumes (e.g., lentils, kidney beans).
- Select whole grains — ask for whole wheat toast when you’re out for breakfast.