By Caryn Alter, MS, RD, FAND, Registered Dietitian
Cardiac Rehabilitation at CentraState Medical Center
Eating healthy while dining out has always been a challenge. At least in pre-COVID times, you could ask your server questions about how the food was prepared. Now with so many of us giving up indoor dining for takeout, it’s become even trickier to eat healthy when all you have for reference is an online menu.
With a few simple tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you can become an expert menu navigator – and “dining out” while “staying in” can make both your heart and your taste buds happy this Heart Health Month!
- Watch the words: Words like “crispy,” “crunchy,” “breaded” and “battered,” as well as “cheesy,” and “creamy” can signal lots of fat and calories. Limit menu items that are fried or served in sauces high in saturated fat.
- Healthful options: Words like “grilled,” “baked,” “steamed,” “roasted” or “al fresco”
- Salad dressings and sauces: Although dressings and sauces usually come on the side in to-go orders, check to make sure that will be the case so you can control how much you actually put on your food
- Healthful options: Flavored vinegars or a squeeze of lemon
- Plate your food: Instead of eating directly out of containers, put more appropriate portion sizes of the meal on your plate when the servings are large
- Healthful option: Save some of your meal for later or for the next day
- Re-evaluate your drink: Sugar-sweetened beverages pack a lot of calories, but not much nutritional value
- Healthful options: Water, fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea or coffee
- Side dishes: Consider requesting fruit or steamed vegetables as a side dish, when available
The American Heart Association offers some additional timely tips for ordering food:
- Scan the menu to see if there is a section with heart-healthy or lower-sodium options.
- Start off your meal with a salad or broth-based soup like gazpacho or minestrone, and skip the cream soups and appetizers.
- Choose fish or skinless poultry more often than red meat for your main dish; if you do order red meat, opt for lean or extra-lean cuts.
- Try some of the many delicious meat-free meals offered by restaurants.
- Request baked, roasted or boiled potatoes without butter and sour cream instead of potatoes that are fried.
- To satisfy your sweet tooth at the end of the meal, substitute fresh fruit for pie or cake.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Tips for Ordering Takeout or Delivery”
American Heart Association. “What About Eating Out?”