The Secrets to Healthy Restaurant Dining

If you’re concerned about healthy eating and keeping your weight in check and disease-promoting inflammation at bay, you might think that dining out is off the menu. After all, many restaurant meals (particularly fried foods) tend to be high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, sugar, and trans fats, as well as salt.

As much as I love a good, nutritionally balanced home-cooked meal, I believe visiting favorite restaurants, and trying new ones, is a special pleasure. And there’s no reason to give this up if you go armed with the knowledge you need to choose the healthiest options possible.

Eating Out Can Be Healthy

With a plethora of fried foods, salty appetizers, and oversweet desserts on many restaurant menus, you might think it’s close to impossible to make smart choices when dining out. Even seemingly healthy options may not be clearly described unless you ask.

By following these suggestions, however, you can increase the likelihood of providing your body with an incredible array of nutrients while minimizing harmful compounds.

  1. Check the menu before you go. Most restaurants post their menus online.
  2. Ask questions, and order a la carte so you know exactly what you’re getting and won’t end up with something unwanted on your plate.
  3. Order an entrée with a high concentration of the omega-3 fatty acids: In a word, seafood. While other types of meat-based entrées contain a precursor called alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which has to be converted in your body to EPA and DHA, fish make that conversion for you. The list below shows some of the richest sources. Opt for baked, broiled, poached, or en papillote. If you must have fried, choose pan-fried with olive oil and no breading (which holds oil, reduces your omega-3 benefits, and increases calories).
  4. If you prefer another type of meat, make sure it is a lean cut and ask if it comes from certified grass-fed animals. Because pastured animals typically get more exercise, they have more muscle tone and are leaner. Additionally, grass (as opposed to grains like corn) contains ALA and tissue from these animals has higher levels of omega-3s. In fact, a review published in Nutrition Journal showed that grass-fed beef contains much higher levels of omega-3s than grain fed (ranging from 2 to 11 times more, depending on the study cited). Importantly, lean meats are also packed with protein and nutrients like B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6) and magnesium. Elevating dietary protein increases satiety (the feeling of fullness) to a much greater extent than carbohydrates or fats. And eating lean beef, veal, pork, and poultry has been shown to be an important weight management tool in many diets. Consequently, it will be easier to eat smaller portions of everything.
  5. Side dishes are your chance to further boost nutritional value and to add fiber and other nutrients. Choose from a wide, colorful variety: raw spinach or Caesar salad (dressing on the side) with anchovies, baked sweet potato, and steamed, grilled, or braised vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, arugula and Brussels sprouts, collard and turnip greens, green beans, and summer or winter squash.
  6. If you wish, include a serving of fiber-rich whole grain such as brown, red, or black rice; buckwheat groats, quinoa, etc. Make sure it is steamed or boiled in water or broth.
  7. Ask that your dressings and sauces be served on the side. And, if possible, choose olive oil and vinegar or dressings made with canola, hemp seed, walnut, or olive oil.
  8. Some excellent no- or low-calorie beverage suggestions include water with a slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber; and polyphenol containing iced or hot coffee or tea. A glass of red wine is also a polyphenol-rich choice. And you don’t have to skip dessert; just choose wisely. Some good options include mixed berries, dark chocolate mousse, or baked fruit with roasted walnuts.
Source: Dietitians of Canada
Seafood Serving Omega-3s (mg)
Anchovies, canned in oil 2.5 oz 1,540
Caviar 2.5 oz 1,960
Cod, Pacific 2.5 oz 790
Halibut 2.5 oz 350-880
Herring 2.5 oz 1,600
Lobster 2.5 oz 420
Mackerel, cooked 2.5 oz 900-1,290
Mackerel, salted 2.5 oz 3,430
Mussels 2.5 oz 590
Oysters, Pacific, cooked 2.5 oz 1,040
Salmon 2.5 oz 330–1,480
Sardines, canned, in water 2.5 oz 740–1,050
Scallops 2.5 oz 270
Shrimp 2.5 oz 240
Snapper 2.5 oz 250
Sole 2.5 oz 370
Trout 2.5 oz 650-870
Tuna, white, canned in water 2.5 oz 650
Whitefish 2.5 oz 1,200

About Author

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews is the President of Gene Smart and the leader of our Gene Smart team. His mission is to provide supplements to help you control your inflammation, your weight, and your life, based on the latest scientific information.

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