Eating Out Can Be Both Delicious and Healthy

On the average, Americans dine out frequently. We might as well eat healthier, right?
On the average, Americans dine out frequently. We might as well eat healthier, right? (Flickr )

The National Restaurant Association estimates Americans spend 49 percent of their food budget at restaurants. With America's fast-paced lifestyle, many parents feel they do not have time to prepare family meals, leading to an unhealthy reliance on fast-food restaurants. Meanwhile singles or couples without children at home have discovered that eating out regularly is easier and may be more economical. I don't recommend that you eat out all the time, but all of us will eat out from time to time—it is part of modern life.

The good news is that you can eat out and still enjoy a balanced, healthy meal. Most restaurants serve unhealthy food, so you can't eat just anything. In addition, portion sizes are often distorted. If you hope to control your weight, there are basic principles you must understand when deciding what dishes to order at restaurants.

  • Choose sparkling water or unsweetened tea with a wedge of lemon or lime.
  • Take two to four PGX fiber capsules with 16 ounces of unsweetened tea or water to help prevent overeating.
  • Avoid the bread. If possible, ask that it not even be placed on the table.
  • Choose an appetizer with vegetables and meats such as a shrimp cocktail. Avoid any that are deep-fried, high in starch and fats (i.e., quesadillas or corn bread) or bread-based.
  • Order your salad with the dressing on the side and with no croutons, cheese or fattening side items. It's best to bring your own salad dressing spritzer or use olive oil and vinegar.
  • Add a bowl of broth-based vegetable or bean or lentil soup to fill yourself up before the entrée.
  • Choose entrées with meat, fish or poultry that is baked, broiled, grilled or stir-fried in a minimum amount of oil. Avoid anything deep-fried or pan-fried.
  • Meat portion sizes should be 3 ounces for women and 3 to 6 ounces for men. If the portion is larger, ask the server to put half in a to-go box.
  • Limit sauces and gravies. If you must have them, ask that they be put on the side.
  • Ask that vegetables be steamed without butter or oils (unless you prefer them raw).
  • Choose sweet potato over white potato when possible. Because these are high-glycemic foods, keep portion to the size of a tennis ball.
  • If you choose a dessert, share it and only take a few bites. Savor those bites.

One of the easiest ways to avoid sabotaging your weight-loss goals is planning. This will help you avoid unhealthy foods and overeating. Never go out to eat when you feel ravenous. I guarantee that you will eat too much of the wrong foods. Have a healthy snack such as a large Granny Smith apple or a pear before leaving the house. This will pre-fill your stomach and help prevent overeating.

In addition, plan what and where you will eat before leaving home. I also suggest patients plan an early dinner, usually between five and six o'clock, so they will finish early enough to burn off some calories before going to bed. You may also want to consider sharing an entrée with your spouse. Also be sure to slow down while eating, and chew every bite thoroughly, putting your fork down between bites. All these "little" things go a long way in controlling hunger and weight.

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Fast-Food Restaurants

Choose a grilled chicken sandwich or a small hamburger. Throw away the top and bottom bun, and squeeze your burger between two napkins to remove excess grease. Cut the hamburger in half and then place both halves of the meat between two lettuce leafs.

Avoid mayonnaise and ketchup; choose mustard, tomato, onions and pickle. You can also order a small salad and ask for fat-free dressing (or use just a small portion of a regular packet). For a drink, order unsweetened iced tea or a bottle of water. Instead of french fries, order a baked potato when available, using only one pat of butter or 2 teaspoons of sour cream.

If you eat at a sub shop, choose turkey, lean roast beef and chicken instead of bologna, pastrami, salami, corned beef or other fatty selections. Choose a 6-inch sub, eating it with the smaller bottom of the bun and not the top portion. Use plenty of vegetables, and top with vinegar; avoid or go easy on the oil. It's best to further cut calories by ordering it in a lettuce or pita wrap.

Italian Restaurants

Start with a soup—minestrone, pasta fagioli, or broth-based tomato—and a large salad. Limit bread and olive oil, which has 120 calories per tablespoon. Good entrée options include grilled chicken, fish, shellfish, veal and steak. Avoid fried or Parmesan dishes, such as chicken or veal Parmesan. Ask for your vegetables to be steamed, and avoid the pasta or have it cooked al dente, which causes it to have a lower glycemic index value.

Don't overdo it on the pasta; the amount should be about the size of a tennis ball. Avoid fat-filled creamy sauces, cheese and pesto sauce.

Mexican Restaurants

Avoid the deep-fried tortilla chips, and choose tortilla soup without the chips or black bean soup as appetizers. Be wary of entrées smothered in melted cheese, which automatically increases the fat count. Choose fajitas with chicken, beef or shrimp. Avoid the tortilla, and make your fajita with lettuce wraps. Add such ingredients as salsa, onions, lettuce, beans and guacamole. Avoid cheese and sour cream if possible, since restaurants rarely serve nonfat varieties. As for beans, choose red or black but not refried, since they are high in fat. Avoid the rice. If a salad is available, enjoy a large one before your entrée.

Asian Restaurants

These are usually good choices, provided your meat or seafood is baked, steamed, poached or stir-fried. Steaming is usually the healthiest method. Instead of fried rice or fried noodles, choose brown rice. If permitted, substitute a serving of rice with vegetables. If that is not possible, don't eat more than a tennis ball-sized serving of rice.

Avoid sweet and sour, batter-fried, or twice-cooked food (which is high in fat and calories) and oily sauces (i.e., duck). For an appetizer you can choose wonton or egg drop soup instead of deep-fried egg rolls. Sushi is fine; some restaurants prepare it with brown rice.

Indian Restaurants

Many Indian foods contain large portions of ghee (clarified butter) or oil, so it's best to find a restaurant willing to limit the amount they use on your dish. Tandoori-cooked (roasted) or grilled fish, chicken, beef and shrimp are good choices. Avoid deep-fried foods and sauces, such as masala sauce and curry sauce, which are high in fat. If you must have them, get them in a small side dish. Also, it's best to avoid the breads—a major element of Indian food. If you have any, however, choose bread that is baked (naan) instead of the fried chapatis bread.

Eating healthily is not a diet but a lifestyle. So follow this lifestyle every day. There will be times that you will slip, especially on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and other special occasions. However, never give up. Simply get back on the program, and you will again start burning fat and building muscle.

If you reach a plateau or if you are unable to lose more weight, simply avoid high-glycemic carbohydrates, which include breads, pasta, potatoes, corn, rice, pretzels, bagels, crackers, cereals, popcorn, beans, bananas and dried fruit. Choose low-glycemic vegetables and fruits. If after a month or two of doing this you are still unable to lose sufficient weight, you should choose low-glycemic vegetables and salads and avoid fruits for approximately a month until you break through the plateau. Then reintroduce low-glycemic fruits.

I am praying for God to give you the determination and willpower to follow through on this eating strategy. Not only will you reverse the stinging effects of inflammation in your body, but you will also lose weight—and keep it off! In doing so, you will take care of your body, God's temple, and live a full and abundant life to His glory. Eat right and live in divine health!

The preceding is an excerpt from Reversing Inflammation (Charisma House, 2015) by Don Colbert, M.D. Copyright © 2015 by Don Colbert, MD. All rights reserved.

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Don Colbert, M.D. has been board certified in Family Practice for over 25 years and practices Anti-aging and Integrative medicine. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books such as The Bible Cure Series, What Would Jesus Eat, Deadly Emotions, What You Don't Know May Be Killing You, and many more with over 10 million books sold. He is the Medical Director of the Divine Health Wellness Center in Orlando, Florida where he has treated over 50,000 patients.

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