Thursday, 23 May 2013

You're out for dinner and......


I LOVE to travel. If I wasn’t going to be an N.D., I’d want to be a travel writer or have my own travel TV series. I’ve been very lucky to travel to all ends of the world (Ecuador, Kenya, Nepal, Australia) and always looking for my next adventure.

Having said that I HATE the process of travelling itself. The line-ups at security, long flights with crying babies, jetlag, time zones and I always seem to be that ‘random’ who gets subject to the pat down or full body scan. On the plus side, travelling to new countries means experiencing new foods, cultures and culinary cuisines. On the down side, it can also mean fast food or restaurant meals that cause some serious tummy troubles, and usually a gluttony of sodium, sugar, scary additives and calorie overload.

While I could write this post for several different restaurant types (Mexican, Japanese, Indian, Korean etc.) I’m going to focus on typical restaurant meals you could find at chain restaurants like East Side Mario’s, Kelsey’s or Jack Astor’s to name a few. If you want information on how to chose healthy at specific restaurants or cuisines, send me a message and I can help you you out!

Before we begin, below is a picture of the bistro shrimp pasta entrĂ©e from the Cheesecake Factory. I want you to guess how many calories, grams of saturated fat and milligrams of sodium it contains. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see the actual numbers and understand why it’s easy to overeat at restaurants. With a few simple suggestions and a couple substitutions, this doesn’t have to be the case.



1. Appetizers may seem like a quick snack, but these can be one of the worst things to order at chain restaurants. Avoid anything breaded, fried, crispy, or that comes with a creamy dipping sauce. Same goes for soups; a clear vegetable based soup is a better choice than a cream based. If you think anything with the word ‘salad’ is healthy, think again. Check out my previous post about salads for some tips.

2. Don’t be shy about making changes to the menu. Ask for double veggies instead white rice, order plain steamed veggies with marinara sauce instead of pasta, get a salad with dressing on the side or see if the item can be prepared without any added salt. For all your Oakville folks, one of my favorite restaurants is Stoney’s. Many times I have ordered a sandwich served on a field of greens instead of bread and never had an issue with this request.

3. When ordering entrees, look for the words grilled, baked, steamed, broiled, poached, roasted, or blackened. These are some of the healthiest ways to prepare meats or seafood items. Stay clear of things like breaded, buttered, fried, creamed, scalloped or au gratin.

4. Watch the add-ons. Sweet potatoes and seasonal vegetables themselves are very healthy, but if loaded with sour cream, butter, bacon, cream sauces, mayo based dips or coated in cheap cooking oil, you are quickly adding calories without any added nutrition.

5. Wait at least 20 minutes after eating your meal before thinking about ordering dessert. Your stomach needs time to signal to your brain that you’re full. If you must order dessert, split one item between two or more people.  Don’t be fooled by buzz words like ‘vegan’, ‘gluten-free’ or ‘organic’. A vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake can still be chocked full of empty calories from sugar and high-carb gluten-free flour blends.

6. Before heading to dinner, check online and see if there is a menu or nutritional information available. Most chain restaurants these days will post both nutritional and allergen information online for all menu items. This is very handy in helping choose a healthier option, but also great for people who have allergies and can avoid having to be 'that person' who grills the server on how the food is prepared and what potential allergens are in each dish. (I've been there....it's not fun...especially in foreign countries)


Thirsty? Plain old water or soda water with lemon is your best bet. If you feel like hitting the bottle, a glass of red wine is always a good place to start 



Answer: that past dish contains 3,120 calories, 89 grams of saturated fat and 1,090 milligrams of sodium, way over the amount you should eat in an ENTIRE day!!!!

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