Eat healthy, even when dining out

Most of us have gone through it; you are on track and eating healthy, then you get invited out to dinner and you worry that you will indulge in fatty, high calorie foods.

A study conducted by the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition showed that 20 per cent of Canadians that were surveyed eat at restaurants more than two or three times a week. However, 67 per cent do order take-out food at least once a week. The average Canadian household, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, eats out about 520 times a year.

More and more restaurants are offering menus with healthy alternatives. But if they don’t, here are a few tips to help you get through the meal, while staying on the right track.

Start the meal off right

• As your drink of choice, settle for diet cola or unsweetened tea or coffee. If you choose to have an alcoholic beverage, try a spirit mixed with diet soda or sparkling water.

• If you decide to order a salad to start off, consider vinaigrette dressings instead of creamy selections such as Caesar, or ranch.

• Order your dressing on the side, this way you can control how much of it you actually eat.

• Choose a soup as an appetizer. Most soups are low in calories and will fill you up. Just stay away from cream-based selections.

• Share, share, share. If you decide to get that extra appetizer, try sharing it with friends. This way you still get a taste, but you won’t eat as much.

• Say no to the pre-dinner bread basket. It will just fill you up and it adds unnecessary calories.

• Look for items on the menu that say ‘grilled,’ or ‘broiled,’ or ‘steamed.’

• If you don’t want to eat a large heavy entrée, order an appetizer and a salad as your main course.

• If you don’t know what is in a certain recipe, or what the serving size is, just ask.

Say no to fried, and don’t be afraid to make special requests

• If your meal comes breaded or deep fried, ask if it can be grilled instead.

• When ordering grilled fish, vegetables or meat, ask that it can be prepared ‘light’ with only a little butter or oil.

• Instead of saying ‘yes’ to the fries, try steamed vegetables, or a baked potato. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions even if you cannot see them on the menu.

• If you choose the baked potato, skip the sour cream and try salsa. It’s delicious and low in fat and calories.

• If you choose to order a pasta dish, look for tomato based sauces as opposed to heavy, Alfredo sauces that are made with cream. If you choose a marinara sauce, it can also count as a serving of vegetables.

• Often restaurants will offer whole wheat pasta; sometimes all you have to do is ask.

• If the serving size is larger than you would eat at home, just eat a portion and take the rest home to have at a later time.


Sandwich 101

• As far and sandwiches go, try mustard instead of mayonnaise. Mustard=no calories

• Try to stay away from club sandwiches that are loaded with bacon and can have up to three pieces of heavy white bread.

• When ordering a sandwich, choose multigrain or whole wheat bread.

For a few suggestions of restaurants in Canada where a healthier option is available, go to

A few other tips:

Try to avoid buffets at all costs. People always over eat at buffets because they want to feel as if they are getting what they have paid for.

If you can, stay away from fast food. Although some fast food chains are offering lighter choices in their menus, their food still tends to be cooked in oil or butter. If you must eat fast food, try the grilled chicken and opt for a salad on the side instead of fries.

The main thing to remember is everything in moderation. If you are dining out because it’s a special occasion, or a special treat, watch what you eat throughout the day and indulge a little more than you normally would at dinner.

Photo © erel photography

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