by Eliana Lakritz MS RD LDN, Clinical Dietitian, Baystate Noble Hospital
Busy, on-the-go lifestyles are common, so it’s not surprising that many of us have been eating more meals outside the home. Whether you prefer take-out, sitting-down at restaurants, or grabbing fast food, it is increasingly more important to make healthy decisions when choosing from a menu. Many restaurants use high sodium products or add extra salt to enhance flavor. They may also deep fry or use high saturated fat sauces/condiments. In general, dishes at restaurants are higher in calories, saturated fat, and sodium than those you would prepare yourself. By eating outside the home, you simply have less control over what goes into your body.
These days, chains and restaurants are becoming more and more transparent as far as the nutrition of their menu items. They respond to the demands of customers, who are looking for more variety in preparation methods, portion sizes, and improvements in ingredients used. It is important that as customers, we take advantage of these changes and eat out without sacrificing health.
Below are a few tips on choosing healthier menu items when at a restaurant:
- Look up the restaurant menu online. Before you commit to a certain place, make sure there is a healthy option available that you can enjoy.
- Request that your meal be prepared without added saturated fat. Usually, this means that they will omit gravies, cheese toppings, and creamy sauces.
- Control portion sizes. You can ask for half of your meal wrapped up, split an entrée with a friend, or order an appetizer to control oversized portions.
- Pay attention to cooking method in description. Choose: steamed, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted and garden fresh. Cooking methods such as fried, creamed, marinated, in butter sauce, au gratin, and sautéed are likely higher in unhealthy fats and calories.
- Don’t overdo the bread basket. You can ask that bread be brought with the meal so that you’re less likely to overeat while waiting for your entrée.
- Make Lean Choices. When choosing an entrée, select lean choices like fish, shellfish or poultry often and ask them to be prepared without added butter.
If you are interested in learning more about nutrition counseling sessions with a registered dietitian at Baystate Noble Hospital, please call 413-568-2811 ex: 5671 for more information.