Healthy Resources Articles
Healthy Resources Articles
Slowing Down Your Fast-Food World
By Keecha Harris, Dr.PH, R.D., for MSN Health & Fitness
Q: I know nutritionists hate this question, but people are desperate to know what the best options are if you are eating in a fast-food restaurant. Also, how do I manage eating out for my adolescent son with diabetes?
A: Remember when eating out used to be a treat? Over the past 40 years, we have moved out of the kitchen and into the car for mealtime. Let’s be real—nearly one-quarter of all meals are eaten away from home. We spend nearly 50 cents of every food dollar at fast-food restaurants. So, why not ask a registered dietitian the best way to reach your nutritional goals under these conditions?
Eating out can be the demise of your well-being if you aren’t strategic. Restaurants add salt, sugar and fat to increase palatability and sometimes to cut costs. Also, the portions offered out are often greater than what you would eat at home. Don’t fall prey to this. You’ll find, too, when you’re very selective about what you choose off a menu, you’ll not only cut calories but save money.
Use your time wisely: Make reservations and avoid packing in calories while noshing on nuts, appetizers and alcohol at the bar. Don’t dine during peak hours.
Know the language: Avoid foods that include descriptors like dressed, breaded, fried, creamy, rich and bathed. Select broiled, baked, simmered and steamed items as well as foods that are advertised as being low in fat, sugar and salt. If it’s not clear from the menu, ask the server--or in the case of a fast-food place, the cashier--for heart-healthy recommendations.
Eat in when you eat out: Get out of the car and go into the restaurant or wait until you get home to eat.
Be a picky eater: Be strategic and choose vegetable-laden entrees. If you dine out frequently, choose one or two restaurants that have healthier fare. Opt for a side salad over fries.
Cut the calories in the cup: The beverages that you choose can push your caloric intake over the top. Select water, skim milk or diet soft drinks. If you must have a regular soda, get the smallest size. Skip the booze.
Mini-size that, please: Eat from the kids’ menu. Choose appetizers for your main course. Or have a regular-sized entree with a salad and skip the combo, especially the super-sized version. Squeeze on lemon juice or lightly dress your salad with a vinaigrette, low-fat or fat-free dressing.
Use the right tools: It’s harder to shovel with a fork than with your hands, so eat your pizza with utensils.
Share and share alike: Still want that hot-fudge sundae? Don’t eat it alone—order one dessert and share it with everyone at your table. See if there are sugar-free alternatives if your son is dining with you. Remember that sugar free does not mean carbohydrate free.
There are nearly as many strategies as there are types of restaurants, so dig deeper for more tricks of the trade. Dieting for Dummies by registered dietitian Jane Kirby and the American Dietetic Association is a rich resource that includes specific guidelines for eating at delis, Chinese, Italian, French and other types of restaurants. Also, the list of resources below includes specific information on the leaner fare at select national restaurants. Take the time to learn more about the healthier options at your favorite restaurants.
Diabetes and other health conditions make eating out a bit more complicated but not impossible. You can also ask for printed nutrition information from restaurants that you frequent. The larger national chains are more likely to provide detailed information. But, you may also find that the smaller local restaurants are willing to help you meet your needs. Remember, healthy eating for a diabetic looks a lot like healthy eating for everyone. The tips above are good start for you. Your registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator can offer specific guidance on how to meet your son’s needs.
Let’s face it—people like to eat out because of convenience. Also, our preferences drive the menu offerings at restaurants. Since one hand washes the other, choose healthier fare when you eat out. Not only will you protect your personal health, but your favorite restaurant may start to offer a greater variety of healthy options.
Remember: When you add mayonnaise and other condiments, you add more calories and possibly fat.