By: Nicola Wilken
Date: February 2017
Food is part of almost every celebration and we certainly gain a lot of enjoyment from eating, especially when treating ourselves to eating out at a restaurant. Some of you who are following a heart-healthy diet may avoid eating out as it is difficult to ensure that the meal fits most guidelines. Whereas, others may give up trying to follow a heart-healthy diet altogether as eating out forms such a large part of their life. But GREAT NEWS – you can find a happy medium! Here are some tips to ensure that you are following heart-healthy guidelines, but at the same time enjoying food that tastes great.
CHOOSING A RESTAURANT
With people’s overall increased interest in health, a lot of restaurants have picked-up on the demand for healthier food options which are lower in saturated and trans-fats and are willing to prepare your food to order. By putting in a little effort you can make sure that the meals you consume away from home form part of a healthy diet.
• No buffets: avoid eating at restaurants that offer buffets, as you are more likely to overeat.
• Plan ahead: if you know what restaurant you are planning to go to and they have a website, try downloading their menu beforehand so that you know what to order before you go1.
• Avoid restaurants that are likely to prepare “fast food”, as these dishes tend to be high in calories, saturated fat and sodium.
INTERPRETING THE MENU
It’s important to understand what is on the menu if you know what to look for, you can eat a meal that is heart-healthy.
• Description of cooking method: food that is served crispy, fried, au gratin, pan-fried, scalloped, buttered, sautéed, creamed or stuffed are high in fat and calories. Rather look for food that has been steamed, poached, broiled, baked, grilled or roasted1.
• Ask your server: if you are unsure how a meal is prepared or what it contains, ask your waitron – they are there to help!
• Choose lean meat: opt for dishes that feature chicken, fish or lean meat and avoid fatty meats.
• Look for a health mark: some menus may indicate which meals are healthy. If you are unable to find this and are still unsure about what to choose that would be the healthiest option, ask your waitron!1
TIPS FOR ORDERING YOUR MEAL
• If there is a bread basket, choose whole-grain or seeded breads, or avoid it altogether if your main already comes with a starch2.
• Ask for butter, salad dressings, sauces and gravies to be served on the side, so that you are able to control how much you consume.
• Opt for baked/broiled/boiled/grilled fish or chicken as opposed to fried.
• Ask if your dish can be prepared to order, where minimal butter or oil is used. If choosing a meat dish, ask the chef to remove the chicken skin, as well as visible fat from the meat before it is cooked1.
• Avoid foods that are likely to be high in sodium, such as food that has been pickled, smoked, in a broth or au jus, or in a soy sauce. Avoid dishes that have lots of sour cream, cheese and mayonnaise1.
• Be discerning at salad bars: choose fresh greens, raw vegetables, fresh fruits, beans and low-fat or light dressings. Avoid marinated salads and pasta salads.
• Select desserts that are better alternatives to the traditional fat- and cream-laden dishes, such as fresh fruit, fruit ice, gelatin and angel food cake. Use low-fat milk in coffee instead of cream1.
• Ask if healthier substitutions can be made to the dish, for example a baked potato/ vegetables/salad in place of fries. Some vegetable options may not be as healthy as you would think, such as creamed spinach – so confirm how they are prepared before ordering.
• If the dish is likely to be a large portion, consider sharing with someone, or eat until you are satisfied and take the rest home.
There are many different cuisines, each with their good and bad points. Tips for eating out based on cuisine can be found on the American Heart Association website: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/DiningOut/Dining-Out-Tips-by-Cuisine_UCM_308333_Article.jsp#.WHYy3FN97IW
It can be seen that there is a way to fit eating-out in to your heart-healthy diet. It may take a little bit of effort in the beginning, but after a while it should become second nature to you. Happy eating!
1. [Online] http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HeathyEating/DiningOut/Dining-Out_UCM_304183_SubHomePage.jsp.
2. [Online] http://www.heartfoundation.co.za/topical-articles/eating-out-heart-healthy-way-seven-golden-rules.