7 Restaurant Rules To Live By

couple toasting wine at a fancy restaurant
The days of dining in restaurants only for special occasions are over. Today, for many people, eating out is an almost daily occurrence.

Here’s the problem: Restaurant menu items are usually low in fiber but high in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium—not exactly the nutritional profile you want if you are trying to eat a healthy diet to prevent disease.

Remember, everything else might be out of your control, but you are the only one who decides what you order and put in your mouth – and sometimes a little rule making helps. So here are seven rules to dine by:

1. Go fish when in restaurants.

To take advantage of the health benefits of fish, many health organizations recommend eating fish a couple of times a week. Making a point to enjoy fish when in restaurants is a great way to get your weekly dose of fish and their awesome omega-3 fatty acids. Just make sure to order the non-battered and fried and the non-buttered fish dishes like grilled salmon or halibut, steamed crab, or scallops lightly sautéed in olive oil or wine.

2. Split it.

Dying to try the fried calamari, creamy spinach and artichoke dip, or even the insane cheesecake? Do not order the less-healthy stuff as your meal. Split it between the whole table or let someone else order it and have a few bites.

3. Pump up the plant foods.

Look for opportunities to order menu items that include high-nutrient, high-fiber plant foods like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. You can often choose beans as a side dish or as part of your entrée at Mexican restaurants and you can order fresh fruit on the side at most restaurants.

4. Make requests.

Dressings, sauces, and gravies on the side, no cheese or bacon on your salad. Trade the side of creamed spinach for steamed spinach. If everything on the menu sounds complicated, create your own entrée, like basic grilled fish with a steamed asparagus in a lemon/oil/garlic sauce. Remember, you’re paying them, they will accommodate you.

5. Watch that wine glass.

Go ahead, have a glass of wine with dinner if you like (red or white, doesn’t matter). But if you order by the bottle amongst a group, how much are you really drinking? Sure, your wine glass was never empty, but that doesn’t mean you only had one or two glasses. Waiters fill them up while you’re mid conversation – so the booze bill adds up, and so do your calories from drinks. 1 glass (5 oz) of wine has 110-120 calories, so several pours later and you just earned an hour on the treadmill. Start paying attention and make a 1 or 2 drink max rule.

6. Remember that extras do add up.

Extra toppings and table munchies are all around you at restaurants. All those extra items can really add up in the calories and fat gram departments. We usually inhale the table munchies because we are ravenous waiting for our meal to be served. You can avoid this by asking the bread or chips be served with the meal (or not at all).

The following are just some of the extras to be aware of:

• Bread with butter
• Basket of tortilla chips with salsa (it’s the chips not the salsa that can add up)
• Blanket of cheese
• Big dollop of sour cream
• Thick spread of mayonnaise (or similar) on bread
• Three strips of bacon
• Dollop of butter (steaks and other entrees are often served this way)
• Squirt of whipped cream

7. Order your dessert with four forks.

If you really want to enjoy one of the restaurant desserts, place a take-home order and eat it later, when you are truly hungry. Or, you can order it with four forks and share it with everyone at the table. You would be surprised how enjoyable and satisfying three bites of dessert can be after a nice, light meal.

Do you eat out at restaurants often? Which cuisines are easier or more difficult to order healthy?

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