Q: Dr. Scott, I am on the road a lot for my work. Do you have some good advice about healthy ways for eating out in restaurants?
A: Many people think that they can eat pretty well when they’re at home, but in a restaurant they think there’s no way to do this. Here are some restaurant tips and fast food choices.
Remember to order water with lemon wedges on the side. This will aid your digestion process. Rather than use white sugar or those pink and blue packets, use the brown packets — raw sugar. Better still, carry Stevia. You can use Stevia to sweeten your lemon water, which makes a nice lemonade-type drink, or to sweeten herbal teas.
Remember to carry a small container of enzymes in your pocket or purse so you will have them with you. Protecting yourself from stomach aches, constipation, and better digestion of your restaurant foods will result.
Remember you have a right to ask questions, or order your food how you want it. For example, in a Chinese restaurant you can request food without MSG added. At an Italian restaurant, you can order fish or chicken grilled, not fried. Order your salad with dressing on the side and use the dressing sparingly.
Remember to skip the appetizers. Don’t eat before you eat! Wherever you eat, skip the bread and butter, chips and dip. Fill up on nutrient-dense foods such as fish and vegetables.
Remember to pick a healthy breakfast. Order oatmeal or fresh fruit or fruit salads; whole wheat toast or whole English muffins; low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit and muesli; herbal tea; poached eggs with whole grain toast are good breakfast options.
Remember to skip the all-you-can eat buffets. You wind up eating all you can eat. It’s great that you can serve yourself, but the fat grams add up fast.
Remember the salad bar rule: do not dump lots of high-fat salad dressing on top of a great salad of vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, mushrooms, green peas, and tomato. You’re able to get a fresh variety of foods in the restaurants you’re visiting while on the road…eat all these fruits of the earth in abundance. See your restaurants as a kind of living fantasy in which diners like you are the most important members of the cast.
Remember that most restaurant meals are too big. Split a dinner or lunch with a friend. Or, take some home for tomorrow’s lunch.
Remember not to drink with every meal. Drinking alcohol puts fat on your liver and your body. All liquid sugar drinks are empty calories that deplete your vitamins and minerals.
Remember to order your entrees prepared in a low-fat way: broiled, steamed, poached, roasted, baked, grilled, or stir-fried. Try grilled or roast turkey, broiled fish, steamed vegetables, and lean meats. Order broiled chicken, chicken breast, or turkey sandwiches and leave off the cheese.
Remember to try low-fat, whole-grain breads, mustard, lots of vegetables and lean meats. Choose vegetable, tomato-based, or bean soups rather than creamed or cheese soups. Avoid casseroles. Order a main course of vegetables, a side salad, and chicken appetizers. Skip desserts.
Remember to avoid artery-clogging fats. Avoid fried chicken, deep-fried foods, and fried onion rings. Avoid French fries, creamy sauces and dressings. Avoid pizza, sandwiches made with fatty meats like bologna, pastrami, sausage, and luncheon meats. Skip chips and nachos.
Remember when you’re forced to eat fast food, drink water instead of high-sugar beverages. Grilled or roasted chicken are one of your best choices. Salad bar items to choose are greens, cottage cheese, vegetables without dressing, beans, and fruits.
All of these options are better than the usual coronary-bypass-on-a-plate meals so common in American fast food restaurants, but remember that eating less animal protein and dairy products makes your restaurant menu choices less pricey, so eating even one or two plant-based meals a day instead will save you money. One USDA study found that seven servings of fruits and vegetables cost less than $1 per day. It’s not easy to “go vegetarian” while eating at American restaurant chains, but it is possible…and you’ll not only lose weight, help the environment, and feel better, but you’ll save real money since eating in restaurants instead of your home is far more expensive.