Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
Facing the challenge of dining out
Dieters get tips on what to order at restaurants
By Margie Wuebker
COLDWATER - Trying to count calories and limit fat as well as sodium can be difficult at home. However, it becomes a definite challenge when eating on the go or during vacation.
"The key to eating on the go and eating healthy is being prepared," registered dietitian Julie Hemmelgarn told Dine & Discover participants Monday night at Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater. "We don't plan to fail; we fail to plan."
Eating out used to be a luxury reserved for special occasions like birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Nowadays the average person eats more than four meals away from home each week.
Consequently, this lifestyle opens the door to challenges like fat and portions large enough for a sumo wrestler.
Meals eaten away from home tend to focus on meat with many steakhouses offering 8-ounce cuts in one setting. Hemmelgarn recommends no more than 6 ounces - the size of two decks of playing cards - for an entire day.
Calories, fat and sodium can add up quickly. Grab-and-go meals like a 4-ounce cheeseburger, large order of french fries and a vanilla shake pack a wallop with 1,205 calories, 59 grams of fat and 1,655 milligrams of salt. The single meal nearly satisfies the recommended dietary guidelines for an entire day with statistics indicating one of every three meals away from home is eaten in a fast-food restaurant.
Dietery guidelines say men should consume 1,800 to 2,000 calories, 65 grams of fat and 2,400 milligrams or one-quarter teaspoon of salt per day, according to Hemmelgarn. While recommended salt intake is the same for women, their calorie intake should be around 1,600 with no more than 55 grams of fat.
Hemmelgarn offered numerous strategies like calling ahead for a menu, deciding what you will order ahead of time, ordering before other members of the group to lessen the likelihood of changing your request and planning to take half the meal home. Ask about having meat or fish baked or broiled instead of fried, which adds approximately 200 calories.
Curb a ravenous appetite by eating a light snack such as fruit or whole grain crackers an hour before a meal. There are things to do when arriving at the restaurant, she said, like drinking water with lemon, eating a broth-based soup or eating salad with light dressing.
"Always remember the more you are served, the more you will eat," Hemmelgarn said.
Portion sizes have grown over the years with the National Restaurant Association's Dinner Decision Marking Survey noting generous servings are something consumers use to rate dining establishments.
Hemmelgarn suggested diners share food with companions, taking home half the entree, choose appetizers, soups and salads in place of entrees, ask for a take-home container when the food arrives or order kiddie/junior size or lunch portions for dinner.
Healthy options for Chinese aficionados include green tea given its antioxidant benefits, won ton or hot and sour soups instead of the egg drop variety, steamed dumplings instead of egg rolls and seafood or chicken selections rather than beef, duck and pork. Hemmelgarn recommends plain rice instead of fried rice and lighter desserts like sherbet, fruit or a fortune cookie.
Watch out for the chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants and choose grilled fare (burritos, enchiladas and fajitas) instead of fried options (chimichangas and tacos), she said.
"Pasta is not bad for you but you end up with way too much," she said. "Red sauces are best but you could ask for half tomato or marinara and half Alfredo if you can't live without the creamy stuff."
Pizza fits into healthy options with low-fat toppings like pineapple, Canadian bacon, ham, grilled chicken, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, onions and peppers spread over a thin crust base. Use high-fat toppings like extra cheese, pepperoni, sausage and bacon sparingly, she added.
"Don't treat each meal eaten out like a special occasion," she said. "And leave the rules of the past - clean your plate and get your money's worth - in the past where they belong."
Clues for good restaurant choices:
Menu descriptions often give clues to fat and/or sodium lurking in many restaurant and fast food selections. And calories lurk where you least expect them.
Julie Hemmelgarn, a registered dietitian at Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater, suggests being wary of wording like fried or deep fried, sauteed in oil or butter, crispy, batter-dipped, cheese sauce, golden brown, au gratin, pan-fried, Hollandaise and casserole.
Opt for menu descriptions like broiled, boiled, grilled, stir-fried, blackened, light wine sauce, broth (soups) and low-fat or fat-free salad dressing or mayonnaise.
The dietitian also recommends substitutions if possible - vegetables instead of french fries, salad with low-fat dressing instead of coleslaw, fresh fruit in place of rich desserts and whole-grain bread or bun instead of white bread.
However, a salad bar or gourmet salads can be a diet disaster waiting to happen, according to Hemmelgarn.
She cited one restaurant offering a dinner-size salad combining lettuce with cranberries, pecans and chicken with 1,140 calories. A smaller portion contains 800 calories.
"Just because your selection is salad doesn't mean it's healthy," Hemmelgarn said.
A diet-conscious diner should steer away from high calorie additions like salad dressing, nuts, cheese, avocados, sour cream and tortilla shells/chips.
"A lot of little extras add a lot of calories," she said, adding one ladle of salad dressing often packs 250 calories. The recommended one or two caps of dressing comes in at 75 or 100 calories.
Hemmelgarn recommends the dip method when it comes to salads. Ask for dressing on the side, dip your fork in the dressing and then in the salad.
Be careful about beverage choices, which add to a meal's total caloric content. Popular beverages and the caloric damage they do to a meal include: 8 ounces of sweet tea (100 calories), 12 ounces regular soda (150), 8 ounces of juice (120 to 150), shakes (680 to 990), creamy coffee drinks (240 to 500), 12-ounce regular beer (153), 12-ounce light beer (100), 4 ounces dry or sweet wine (190), 8-ounce Pina Colada (616), 8-ounce Daiquiri (448) and 12-ounce wine cooler (210).
- Margie Wuebker