Several years ago I was invited to a breakfast meeting for health and food writers at an international natural products conference. All the big names (and some little names, like me) in my field were there, and all of us were eating from the buffet
Ten Tips for Healthy Eating OutThe raw foods author chose nuts and carrots. The protein power expert had an egg white omelet. I ate an herb salad with beans and steamed veggies. And a retired nutrition author, who is still going strong at the age of 90, had three jelly doughnuts and a plate heaped with bacon.
By and large, nutritional experts do as they tell others to do. And while some nutrition experts simply will not patronize certain food establishments, there is a better way to eat just about any kind of food you want to eat. Here are ten tips.
1. Burger places pack on pounds with mayonnaise and French fries. Skip the fries and eat your burger with mustard, and you'll get a lot less fat. Try a veggie burger for a change of pace. You may find that you like a homemade veggie burger better than meat.
2. Ice cream places often offer tasting spoons. Taste ice cream, but eat sorbet or frozen yogurt. If you have diabetes, eat "sugar free," but be careful of ice cream sweetened with sugar alcohols. This kind of artificial sweetener won't raise your blood sugars right away, but probably will raise your blood sugars about 24 hours later.
3. Chinese restaurants offer low-fat dishes that don't involve tofu. Try any kind of meat or vegetables on skewers for a change from bean curd. Even if your restaurant does not offer brown rice, if you ask for it often enough, they may put it on the menu.
4. Mexican restaurants usually serve fried tortilla chips before every meal. Instead of grazing until the basket is empty, count out, for example, 10 chips that you eat slowly. While authentic Mexican food is usually quite healthy, the best option at many Tex-Mex restaurants is fajitas. You might also enjoy a caldo, or Mexican soup.
5. Indian restaurants serve samosas, puffed pastries filled with meat sauces made with butter and cream. You may want to avoid them, and go for the baked, tandoori dishes or curries served with rice and lentils. Don't make the mistake I've made and dollop out raita (cucumber and yogurt with onions) as if it were a dessert, or the ubiquitous mango pudding as if it were a curry.
6. Pizza places offer delicious, addictive, intoxicating pizza, not to mention intoxicating beer and wine. If you are going to imbibe alcohol at a pizza place, drink after you eat, so you'll have more control over your appetite. Experts typically offer the unrealistic advice that you should eat a single slice of pizza with veggie toppings, but you can at least avoid eating the whole pie.
7. Vending machines sometimes offer nuts or peanuts. Avoid the crackers and candy bars as much as you can.
8. Salad bars offer lots of crunchy, crispy, colorful vegetables. They also offer lots of calorie-packed salad dressings and butter for your rolls. Salad dressing usually provides more calories than the salad itself. If you have to have a dressing on your salad, consider a vinaigrette. The vinegar and oil dressing not only has fewer calories, it slows down your digestion so you fill up faster.
9. Brunch often means waffles. They are delicious, but they don't have enough protein to fill you up. Eat a protein food first, and then treat your waffle as a dessert.
10. Fried chicken places would seem to offer zero opportunities for healthy eating, and when the menu choice uses fried chicken instead of bread to make a fried chicken sandwich (three pieces of fried chicken layered with bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise, for example), it's best to pass. Usually, however, you can get grilled chicken layered over lettuce and tomatoes with a vinaigrette dressing, or grilled chicken and green vegetables at a food bar. If those options are not available, try to get a grilled chicken sandwich.