The restaurant scene is a hodgepodge of thousands of different types, different names and different cuisines all fighting for your business. They have to make good tasting food at a reasonable price. It’s only recently that healthy foods have become important to the consumer. So important that restaurants have to put something healthy on the menu. The problem or better yet the challenge for restaurants is to make healthy food taste good. The problem with healthy food has always been that it’s bland, not much flavor. You can’t cream it, or sauté it, that wouldn’t be healthy. You can’t tenderize the meat, that would add calories. So restaurants have come up with a small amount of foods on the menu that are healthy and that gets them off the hook. They can still offer the standard menu of tasty entrees with 1200 or 1500 calories but critics can’t say there’s no healthy food on the menu.
Many restaurants offer delicious, heart-healthy meals. These tips will help you make eating out healthy and enjoyable. I like to stay with the independents, the ones that have been in business for 20 years or more. Their food has to be good or they wouldn’t still be in business.
Before You Order
If you are familiar with the menu, decide what to order before entering the restaurant. This tactic will help you avoid any tempting foods that may not be as healthy. If you are trying a new restaurant, take time to study the menu so you can make the best choices.
Have the waiter remove temptations (such as the bread basket) from the table. Drink two full glasses of water before your food arrives.
Avoid foods described as buttery, buttered, fried, pan-fried, creamed, scalloped, au gratin (with cheese), or a la mode (with ice cream). Try never to eat bread or other appetizers before your meals. If you do eat bread before your meal, choose Melba toast or whole-grain rolls without butter or margarine.
When You Order
Order foods that are steamed, broiled, grilled, stir-fried, or roasted.
Order potatoes baked, boiled, or roasted instead of fried. Ask the server to leave off the butter and sour cream. You notice I’m not a fan of ordering anything fried. Why, you might ask. You have no idea what kind of oil they use and how many times it’s been used.
Order first so that you will not be influenced by others’ choices.
For appetizers, order broth-based soups such as minestrone or gazpacho instead of creamy soups or fried finger foods. Or better yet, choose a salad with oil and vinegar.
Choose seafood, chicken, or lean red meat rather than fatty or processed meats. Remove all visible fat from any meat.
Ask for steamed vegetables instead of fries.
Ask for the sauces and dressings on the side so you can control how much you eat.
Ask the server about ingredients or preparation methods for the dishes you’re not familiar with.
For dessert, order sorbet or fresh, seasonal fruit without whipped cream or a topping.
When choosing from a salad bar, avoid items like grated cheese, potato salads, cream dressings, bacon bits, and croutons. Use a squeeze of lemon instead of dressing on salads. Or try rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar.
If you opt for dressing on your salad, order the dressing on the side. Dip your salad fork into the dressing, then into the salad. You will consume less dressing if you just get a taste of it on each mouthful of salad rather than pouring it over the salad.
To sum this up, I try to eat in better quality restaurants. Your more likely to get the food prepared the way you want. So many chain restaurants get their food from a commissary where the meats are tenderized with liquid seasoning, salad dressings are made in bulk before they ship it and breads are made and shipped frozen. Not that I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but in a restaurant like that you don’t have many options to change anything. The chains are concerned about controlling quality and keeping the food consistent. The recipes are made so the food tastes good and makes you want to come back. They don’t care about healthy, except to make you believe it’s healthy.