Going out to eat is meant to be a fun and enjoyable experience, not a miserable one. The thought of sticking to a heart-healthy diet while eating at a restaurant might seem not only impossible, but also uninteresting. However, there are many tactics that will help you order heart-healthy food at restaurants and allow you to enjoy the experience with just a small bit of sacrifice.
When people eat at restaurants, they often use the experience as an excuse to order and eat anything and everything that looks appealing. They adopt the “if I don’t know the exact ingredients used to make this food, it can’t hurt me” attitude. In such situations, people can inadvertently consume countless calories and enormous amounts of fat. While it’s acceptable to indulge at restaurants every so often, it’s not heart-healthy to dine out this way on a regular basis.
Many restaurants offer heart-healthy choices that are easy to spot on a menu. But some restaurants don’t have a separate menu category for healthy dishes. In such situations it’s important to know how to identify heart-healthy options so you know what to order.
Tips for Ordering Heart-Healthy Selections at Restaurants:
Skip the soda. Have you ever heard the term “empty calories?” If anything fits the definition of empty calories, it’s soda. And the diet variety isn’t necessarily heart-healthy either – even if it doesn’t have any calories. Instead, drink water, fat-free milk, or tea (without sweetener).
Ask for dressing and sauces on the side. You might think you’re being healthy by ordering a salad, but salads that are dripping in salad dressing may actually be more unhealthy than many other choices on the menu. Salad dressing can be extremely high in fat and calories. The same is true for foods that are smothered in sauces and gravies.
Avoid “all you can eat” buffet restaurants. Nobody needs to eat three plates of fried chicken, an unlimited bowl of mashed potatoes, or countless pieces of bread at one meal (not to mention all of the other food that’s ready and waiting for you on a buffet counter.) Buffet-style restaurants are fine for a special occasion, but this type of restaurant encourages overeating of unhealthy foods.
Just say no to dessert. If you absolutely must indulge in dessert because it’s your birthday or you are celebrating another special occasion, select something that contains fresh fruit or a choice that you can share with others at the table. Remember: Heart-healthy refers to items that are as low in calories, fats, and sugars as possible. If you like to drink coffee after a meal at restaurants, avoid adding excessive cream and sugar to your cup.
There is no need to deprive yourself of eating out with your family or friends simply because you want to stay on a heart-healthy diet. Similarly, it’s important to remember that eating at a restaurant is not an excuse to consume just anything you see on the menu. Sticking to a heart-healthy diet requires knowledge and will-power – both of which are entirely possible with a small amount of effort.
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