Avoiding Unhealthy Restaurant Foods, Choosing Is Easier Than You Think

February 27, 2023 by No Comments

We all get stuck in the rut of going to our favorite restaurants instead of trying something new. We also have a tendency to order the same meal. When you are traveling, it becomes a little more of a challenge. Let’s look at a few things to watch for when eating at various restaurants.

Italian restaurants focus on breads, pasta and other starches, which aren’t always a great idea if you are eating late. It is best to reserve those heavy starches for earlier in the day, when you are more active and have a chance to burn them off. Starches are often filling and from a restaurant owner’s viewpoint they are fairly cheap. Add some creamy, cheesy white sauce and the calories (and salt intake) can be extreme. To give you a clearer picture, a bowl of macaroni and cheese at your local Noodles chain comes in at 1000 calories.

Alternatives: Red tomato sauces are vegetable based and have fewer calories than white, cream-based sauces. Knowing how inexpensive noodles are, you aren’t getting your money’s worth unless the restaurant is generous in its vegetables or if it includes a healthy salad in the cost of the meal. Don’t be afraid to ask for more veggies and less pasta.

Burgers are convenient, fast and all-American. There is plenty of fat in the meat and the shake you order with it. If you must have fries, see if the restaurant has sweet potato fries instead. They may cost a little more, but they are better for you. Wendy’s has a plain baked potato that can be a tasty and filling substitute for French fries. Just don’t use all the sour cream in the container.

Alternatives: Some ways to lessen the caloric intake on hamburgers is to hold the mayo and forget the cheese and bacon. Spice things up with mustard instead. Get used to ordering small instead of large, especially with high calorie carbonated beverages or shakes. Drink water instead of soda. It not only cuts out a lot of calories, but it helps your pocketbook, too.

Your food’s appearance can often tell you a lot about its preparation. You often see a greasy sheen in Asian foods, where they quick fry both meats and vegetables. As long as the vegetables still have some vibrant color to them, you are getting some nutrients. But watch out if they look dull and limp or if they appear to be sitting in an oily glob of goo.

Alternatives: If you happen to hit Panda Express for dinner, and the vegetables look like they have been sitting for a while, don’t be afraid to ask them for fresh ones. Orange chicken with fried rice comes in at 950 calories. It also has 1440 mg of sodium and 245 mg of cholesterol, which is more than your daily recommended of less than 200 mg. Consider getting steamed rice instead. Steamed rich is just that, no sodium, no cholesterol, nothing added. For one of your sides consider the steamed veggies at 70 calories and 530 mg of sodium.

What these examples should get you thinking about is menu choices. Consider what you are eating. Can you still have some of the flavor and calories, but balance it with something on the menu that is healthy? Make substitutions that reduce the intake of highly processed food. For example, use brown rice if you can or steamed rice as the next best thing. Fried rice means more fat, more calories and less nutrition. Do you really need the dipping sauce? Do you have to use all they give you?

Even if you’re going out for breakfast, there are better choices to make. How about fruit instead of potatoes? How about a hot sauce instead of drowning your food in gravy? Many restaurants melt margarine in a pot and then brush it onto your toast. Consider asking for butter on the side, and you can then put on as much or as little as you want. One tablespoon of butter is about 100 calories. Pick an omelet with more veggies and less cheese. Pick a pancake with fresh fruit like blueberries and don’t use that purple compote stuff that is some kind of mix of food coloring, sugar and maybe a tiny blueberry or two.

More and more there are vegetable or fruit options on the menu that can help you reduce your caloric intake. The key is not to deprive yourself of what you want. The key is to eat a little less of the high calorie foods and balance it with more, or at least some, of the low calorie foods. This balancing act will increase the nutritional value of the food that you eat each day. Remember the closer you get to eating foods that appear as if they were just picked from the garden, the better off you will be.