True or false?: A salad is the healthiest item to choose on the menu.
Surprisingly, the answer is false. Most entree salads have more toppings than lettuce or other vegetables. These "healthy salads" can really pack on the saturated fat and extra calories. For example, a Fiesta Chicken Salad from Applebee's has 880 calories, 43g of fat (11g saturated fat, 1g trans fat), 83g of carbohydrates, and 2,170mg of sodium! Now, let's compare this to a "healthier" option at Applebee's: Ziesta Roma Chicken and Shrimp. This entree has 410 calories, 11g fat (3.5g saturated fat), 23g of carbohydrates, and 2,090mg of sodium. Even though the sodium content is still high (this is expected when you go out to eat) it is a much better option than the salad.
Tips for choosing the "healthiest" options when eating out.
1. Skip the bread basket! If you want to splurge on the tasty bread anyway, ask the waiter to only bring out 1 piece of bread (or 2 if you are eating with a partner).
2. Order water! Most restaurants provide you with free refills so it might be difficult to stop the flood of soda once you have ordered the first glass.
3. Order soup before your main course. Choose a broth-base soup over a cream-based one.
4. When visiting the salad bar, pass the cheeses and croutons. Stick with clear dressings (like Italian), fresh vegetables, nuts, and beans.
5. If you order a salad, try and substitute toppings for fresh vegetables. Also, ask for the dressing on the side so you can control how much gets poured on.
6. Choosing fish, chicken, or pork are usually better options than beef.
7. Marinara and tomato-based sauces are usually healthier than creamy sauces or gravies. If you opt for the cream sauce, either ask for it on the side or ask that the chef "go light."
8. Eat slowly. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to register that you are full. Stop to enjoy your dinner conversation and sip some water.
9. For sandwich toppings, opt for lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and/or onions.
10. Don't be shy about making requests!
Key Words to Look for on the Menu:
1. Buttery, breaded, buttered, fried, and creamed: They usually mean loaded with saturated fat and calories.
2. Grilled, baked, steamed, broiled, and roasted: Best to pick!
For Restaurants with Large Portions:
1. Ask for a take-home box with your meal. Place half of your meal in the container before you begin. This will help you from overeating and cleaning your plate.
2. Order your entree and share with a friend!
As a final note, if you are normally eating a healthy diet, don't be afraid to splurge once in a while!