Go ahead and take on any type of restaurant. Ask yourself (and the waiter) the following five key questions before ordering something on the menu:
Can you ever just
"go whole hog" and order whatever you want without worrying about all the unhealthy ingredients?
Sure you can, but save it for occasional splurges—not everyday habit. In fact, some things are so obscenely scrumptious that if you didn't periodically indulge, I'd think you were nuts!
- How is the food prepared? The same methods I advised for your own personal recipes also apply to restaurants. Whether entrees or side dishes, scout out meals that are prepared by grilling, baking, poaching, roasting, boiling, blackening, steaming, broiling, or “lightly” stir-frying. If the menu doesn't indicate the cooking technique, ask your waiter or waitress. Don't assume that a food is not fried unless the menu clearly says it isn't.
- Are the cuts of meat lean? Stick with the leaner cuts of meat. For instance, loin, round, flank, shoulder, leg, and extra-lean ground beef are the preferred choices when ordering red meat. Chicken and turkey breasts are two of the leanest choices to make, and of course, all fish and seafood can be terrific when prepared in a healthful manner. When you do occasionally order steak, ask whether the chef melts butter on top before cooking. Believe it or not, some establishments do this to make the meat seem more tender.
- What kind of sauces come with your meal? Ask about the ingredients used for sauces. Generally, avoid hollandaise, butter, cheese, and cream sauces that come slathered over your meal. If you're not sure about something, or it sounds delicious and hard to pass up, get it on the side and enjoy it in smaller amounts.
- Are the ingredients loaded with sodium? If you're on a sodium-restricted diet for medical reasons, it's especially important to avoid entrees and side dishes that are loaded with salt. Stay away from meats and fish that are smoked, cured, pickled, or canned. Also avoid sauces, seasonings, and marinades that use soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, dried stock, MSG, or plain old table salt during preparation.
- How can you balance out your meal? If you order a pasta entree, pass up the bread. If you know that you like to splurge on dessert, order a lean grilled fish for your main dish with a lot of vegetables. If the bread basket is your thing, skip the side starch that comes with your main meal and enjoy two slices of fresh bread instead. If you like to use up calories on a few glasses of wine, skip the bread and get fresh fruit for dessert.