Men's Health, Nutrition and Fitness, Women's Health, Your Health Ben Brown | 7 years ago

Heart Smart Substitutions: Eating Heart Healthy While Eating Out

Heading out to eat but don’t want to derail your diet? You can still enjoy your favorite restaurant by choosing wisely from the menu and asking for minor, but impactful, substitutions.

Dining Out

“Restaurant dining presents challenges when it comes to making healthy eating choices,” says Michelle Musselwhite, RD, LDN, registered dietitian with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Cardiac Rehab Program. “Most menus are a minefield of fat and calories and portion sizes have gotten really out of control.” The Food and Drug Administration announced calorie labeling regulations recently, requiring establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food on their menus. This includes restaurant chains, pizza delivery, bakeries and coffee shops. While the calorie count information will help you make more informed decisions, Musselwhite also suggests the following tips to make the healthiest choices while eating out:

Scan the Whole Menu:

Look through the “lighter choices” portion of the menu first. Also consider an appetizer, half an entrée or even share a meal with a friend.

Ask About Preparation:

Is the meat grilled, broiled or fried? Can you get your salad dressing on the side? Are the vegetables prepared in oil/butter or can you get them steamed? Substitutions for methods of preparation that include added fats, oils and calories are your best bets.

Watch the Sides:

Instead of sides like mac and cheese or mashed potatoes, opt for fresh fruit, a baked potato (easy on the toppings) or steamed vegetables.

Limit Alcohol:

“Cocktails and mixed drinks can often pack hundreds of calories onto an already calorie-laden meal,” says Musselwhite. If you do order a drink, stick to one glass of wine, which is typically lower in calories than mixed drinks or beer.

Start and End Wisely:

Skip the bread basket. If you must have bread, try dipping it in olive oil instead of butter. Likewise at the end of the meal, opt out of dessert. If you’re really craving something sweet, share your dessert with a friend or consider ordering a lighter option, like a fruit cup or sorbet.

Fast Food:

Substitute zero-calorie drinks like water or unsweetened iced tea for high-calorie sodas. Special order some of your favorite items to eliminate high-calorie condiments and add-ons like mayonnaise or bacon. Order a side other than french fries, like a fruit cup or side salad with low-fat dressing. A healthy heart lets you stay focused on doing what you love.  Learn how Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute can help you keep your heart healthy.