Sometimes you can just look at a menu item and know it can't be good for you.
Or can words be deceiving?
Which is healthier in terms of calories AND fat?
Ruby Tuesday Carolina Chicken salad
Ruby Tuesday Louisiana Fried Shrimp
Well, if you said the salad...SORRY, wrong answer.
Carolina Chicken Salad: 1151 calories, 70grams of fat
Louisiana Fried Shrimp: 423 calories, 17grams of fat
Talk about deceiving..
The KIDS (yes-I said KIDS) mac and cheese has 680 calories and 37 grams of fat!
Would you like me to go on? Ok, I will.
1 once of the Sweet Chili sauce (ONE ounce) has 170 calories and 17 grams of fat.
And in last place, the Chicken and Broccoli pasta comes in at 1639 calories and 103 grams of fat.
So, does this mean you have to avoid all restaurants in order to stay within a reasonable range of daily calories?
To save calories you can box up half your portion as soon as your dinner arrives to the table. You could ask for the bread basket to be served with dinner (or not at all) and you can skip the appetizers and alcoholic-drinks. You can order dressings on the side and you can skip desert. But when you are out with friends, co-workers, training buddies or your family, it's hard to remember all those little tricks to saving calories when eating out.
While it is hard to know exactly how many calories you are eating when ordering a chef-prepared meal, it is likely that you will be consuming more calories, fat and sodium than you would like. However, in an effort to prepare for an upcoming restaurant meal, it would be wise for you to check on-line nutrition guides and/or menu's prior to arriving to the restaurant. By planning ahead and eating a small protein or fiber snack (50-100 calories), and a big glass of water, around 30-40 min. before you arrive at the restaurant, you will be less likely to overindulge in appetizers. Furthermore, on-line menu's will help you decide your meal choice, well before arriving to the restaurant. Without giving into the smells and sights in the restaurant, you will do a lot of good for your body by creating a healthy meal choice before sitting down at your table.
There are a lot of ways to make restaurant-meals healthier but more times than not, it is likely that you are going to feel like an outcast (especially if you are out to eat with people who you don't know you very well) if you are the "difficult one" when ordering. Sure, you can ask for the meal to be prepared with a healthier oil, for the food to be prepared without butter or that the chef not to use salt, but when you are tempted by the yummy choices on the menu, it is likely that you are going to just make things simple and avoid making special requests.
Rather than making your order difficult, I suggest avoiding your "temptation" restaurants all together. Maybe it's time to try a nice place that serves its sweet potato with toppings on the side rather than going to a restaurant that only serves butter with a side of mashed sweet potatoes. Although there are many restaurants out there catering to the health-conscious individual, it is still up to you to make a conscious decision to order those healthier items (even if there are loads of unhealthy items on the menu).
I've listed a few suggestions to show that it can be done. Yes-you can eat healthy when eating out, so long as you are prepared. Although I recommend limiting fast-food/restaurants to no more than 2 times per month, always be prepared when eating out. You can order the healthiest item in the restaurant but it is up to the chef to put his/her little spin on the menu item. If the chef decides to add a heaping tbsp of feta cheese instead of a tsp and 10 croutons instead of 5, then the calories of your salad go up. If your chef gives your salmon three shakes with the salt shaker instead of one, you better believe you are going to feel a bit bloated after your meal. Most importantly, if you are spending money on healthy food, you want to feel satisfied and happy with your order.
1) Know ahead of time what you will order before arriving to the restaurant.
2) Eat a small fiber/protein snack, 30-40 min before arriving to the restaurant.
3) Drink a large glass of water before your meal and with your meal.
4) Avoid using the salt shaker at the table.
5) Do not order an appetizer.
6) Ask for the bread basket to be brought out with your meal.
7) Order a salad or soup before ordering your entree.
8) Order dressings and toppings on the side. Ask for lower-calorie dressings/vinaigrette.
9) Order full portions but ask for 1/2 the meal to be boxed up when it arrives to your table.
10) Share meals/side items with other people.
11) Do not order dessert at the restaurant. Wait at least an hour after dinner to decide if dessert is necessary.
12) Estimate calories and portions in your head. If you are eating more food than normal, just save the extra portion for the next day.
13) Limit yourself to 1 alcoholic beverage at dinner. I recommend looking up calories for your favorite beverages prior to ordering them.
14) Plan your meal to include the following: complex carb, lean/low fat protein and vegetables (and/or fruit). If your order is mostly carbs, find a way to add in more protein and veggies to balance the meal.
15) Ask for light-options. Although the definition of light may differ between you and your chef, ask for light on the cheese, light on the butter or light on the oil-if you must order those items.
16) Avoid the following food items which include: fried, au gratin, crispy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed or stuffed foods. Ask or look for steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted. Avoid creamy sauces/soups and look for tomato sauces or vegetarian broths.
*vegetarians-always ask if the soups are made from chicken stock or vegetarian-NO MEAT-broths. I've had many instances where I was about to order vegetable soup in chicken stock.
17) Customize your order. While cheese and croutons may add a few more calories and fat to your salad you would be better off asking for eggs, a little cheese and nuts than ordering a green salad without the cheese and croutons, but keeping the blue cheese dressing.
18) Ask for substitutions. While you may have to pay a bit more, ask for a salad instead of french fries, fruit instead of desert (if it is a 3-course meal) or plain baked potato or steamed veggies instead of fried rice.
19) Find ways to save calories. Order side items or a few healthy appetizers (ex. pita bread and hummus, baked potato and steamed veggies instead of baked chicken Parmesan).
20) Stop eating when you are satisfied. If this is incredibly hard for you (I know the feeling when I'm at outback. Finishing off my sweet potato with warm bread is a hard temptation for me), take your last bite when you feel satisfied. Drink a big sip of water and immediately pop a piece of sugar-free gum in your mouth. Problem solved. If you save leftovers, you can enjoy that yummy dish the very next day.