Weekly Wellness: Smarter choices when dining out

2 years 6 months 3 weeks ago Monday, March 21 2016 Mar 21, 2016 Monday, March 21, 2016 4:25:56 PM CDT March 21, 2016 in News
By: Amanda Barnes, KOMU 8 Wellness Coach

COLUMBIA - When it comes to losing weight, one of the biggest challenges that my clients encounter is "what do I do about eating at restaurants?" It can be an incredibly overwhelming dilemma. Especially if you are someone who spends a lot of time socializing at restaurants. Some of my clients have to spend a lot of time at restaurants because their jobs require them to "wine and dine" their customers. To feel like you have little control over your predicament can be emotionally straining as it is physically.

So this week, with a little help from our friends at My Fitness Pal, we are bringing you some tips on what to avoid and what to choose when eating out at different restaurants. We will start with the incredibly popular (and nutritionally-sabotaging) Mexican food.

Mexican Food:

  • Choose to add fresh vegetables and/or salsa to your entrée rather than cheese, queso dip or sour cream for less calories and added fat.
  • Go for the corn tortillas rather than flour tortillas. Corn tortillas tend to be smaller and are a source of whole grains.
  • Fill your taco, enchilada or burrito with a variety of beans and grilled vegetables instead of meat.
  • Order brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Don't fill up on chips and salsa (this is the hardest thing to do).

Healthier Picks:

  • Chicken fajitas
  • Taco salad (hold the hard shell and queso)
  • Shrimp or chicken taco on soft corn tortillas

Asian Food:

  • Go for the steamed dumplings or "summer" rolls instead of fried wontons or egg rolls. Summer rolls are made with thin rice paper and usually contain fresh vegetables and shrimp or lean meats like chicken or pork.
  • Order an extra side of steamed vegetables to accompany your entree.
  • Beware of the sauces! Try to order your dish with the sauce or dressing on the side. Also, to avoid extra sodium, choose a low-sodium soy sauce or use the regular soy sauce VERY sparingly.
  • Choose a stir-fried or sautéed meat option instead of a breaded or fried meat option (read the menu for the description or ask your server).
  • Order a side of steamed brown rice rather than white rice or fried rice.

Healthier Picks:

  • Kung Pao Chicken (spicy stir-fry chicken dish is made with peanuts, vegetables, and hot chili peppers)
  • Moo Goo Gai Pan (stir-fry dish made with chicken, mushrooms, and vegetables )
  • Sashimi

Breakfast food:

  • Order a side of whole-grain toast rather than "white" options (i.e. white bread, grits, biscuits, muffins or buttermilk pancakes).
  • Build your omelet! Load up on vegetables and protein! Keep in mind that lean meat sources would be turkey or chicken sausage.
  • Add tomato, avocado or spinach to your favorite egg dish.
  • Choose your sides wisely...a cup of fresh fruit or a small bowl of oatmeal instead of home fries or grits.

Healthier Picks:

  • Vegetable omelet
  • Oatmeal with fruit (without brown sugar)
  • Eggs, whole-wheat toast and fruit

American steakhouses:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat (Think: fillet mignon, flank steak or tenderloin) instead of fatty cuts of meat such as a rib-eye or T-bone.
  • Keep proportion size in mind. Bigger isn't always better. When ordering steak, consider choosing a portion of three to six ounces.
  • Pair of steak with a baked potato, brown rice or a house salad. Avoid scalloped potatoes, potatoes au gratin or wedge salads. The latter options are often prepared using cheese, oil and cream-based sauces, leading them to be higher in both fat and calories.
  • Use butter, sour cream and cream-based sauces sparingly, and always ask for these condiments to come on the side.

Healthier Picks:

  • Fillet mignon and baked sweet potato
  • Grilled salmon with steamed broccoli
  • Burger (without a bun or cheese and all condiments on side) with baked potato and side salad
  • Grilled chicken with steamed mixed vegetables and brown rice

Italian food:

  • When ordering spaghetti, tortellini or other pasta dishes, ask your server whether whole-grain pasta is available. If so, opt for the whole grains instead.
  • Choose a tomato-based sauce instead of a cream-based one such as Alfredo. Vegetable-based sauces will usually be lower in fat and calories than cream-based alternatives.
  • Italian restaurants often offer a variety of fish and shrimp options. Choose a grilled seafood dish for a boost of essential fats.
  • Ask for grated cheese on the side so you can sprinkle it on yourself, or just omit it altogether.
  • Ask your server whether small "lunch" portions are available. Or, order a regular entrée portion, and place half in a to-go box before eating your meal.

Healthier Picks:

  • Minestrone soup and house salad
  • Chicken marsala
  • Grilled fish and vegetables with marinara over whole wheat pasta

Southern food:

  • Choose grilled or roasted meat instead of heavier meats like fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, and fried pork chops or fried shrimp.
  • Order a salad or side of freshly cooked vegetables like green beans, collard greens or stewed okra. Avoid fried vegetables and heavy starch-based sides like fried okra, potato salad, macaroni salad, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato soufflé or mashed potatoes.
  • If your entrée comes with gravy or other heavy sauces, ask them on the side so you can control exactly how much to add.
  • Drink unsweetened tea or water with a lemon to avoid the added sugar and calories that come from drinking sweet tea, lemonade or soda.
  • Order the kids meal. If you're craving the pulled-pork sandwich, get the smaller portion off the kids menu, which is usually served with only one side.

Healthier Picks:

  • Pulled chicken with baked beans and collard greens
  • Smoked turkey with green beans and corn on the cob
  • Beef brisket with stewed okra and coleslaw

If you know in advance where you'll be dining, it might be beneficial to jump on-line and check out their menu. You can create your games plan before you step in the door.

You can also do little things like ask the server to bring you a to-go container WITH your meal, cut your entrée in half and stick it directly into the to-go box. Don't even give yourself the option of cleaning your plate because as you know, the portions that are served to us at restaurants are generally twice (5to sometimes three times as much) as what we would consider a single-size portion.

Don't feel like you can't go out with your friends and family and enjoy yourself just because you're trying to lose weight. Just make better choices. You can do it!

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