Eating Out? Watch Out!

We all have our favorite restaurants we enjoy eating at. Many of us will try to go to what we consider are “healthier” choices.  One of my favorite restaurants is a Middle Eastern themed restaurant. They serve fish, chicken, beans, pitas, ect. The other day I pulled up the nutritional information as I was just curious. Unfortunately, I was dismayed. I was absolutely shocked at what I saw. The amount of calories and grams of fat in many of my favorite meals was astronomical. How could this be? After staring at the information for a while, I started to come to several conclusions. First, was portion size. The portions they serve are quite large. Several of the meals they serve are 2 or even 3 servings per meal! This led the total calorie count to almost 1000 calories a meal! This a pervasive problem when eating out and we need to be very careful at restaurants. It is very easy to over-eat at restaurants as we are frequently with friends and family and pay no attention to how much we have eaten. Before you know it, you may have consumed almost 1000 calories at one meal! If the portion size is large, cut it in half and share it with another person (and save money) or take half home. Do not feel you need to eat the whole meal. Pay attention to how much you are eating and eat slowly. Stop when you are full. Another clear problem is sauces and dressings. Several of the sauces are based in cream or oil which jacks up the calories and fat content (due to cream or oil). Surprisingly, the salad dressings were loaded with calories and fat. It was shocking to see the calorie content of the salads coming close to 1000 with the dressing. (The amount of dressing used was also quite large.) It turned the “healthy” salads into some of the most calorie dense items on the menu. Sauces can also be loaded with calories due to added cream, butter and oils. Always get the sauces and dressings on the side and use sparingly. Another area to be careful is cheese. A lot of times, items that were reasonable in calories and fat turned quite unhealthy with the addition of cheese, which is quite calorie dense and packed with saturated fat. A final area to watch out for is how items are cooked. Anytime an item is cooked in butter or oil, the calories and fat content shoots up. Even items cooked in olive oil can be loaded with calories due to the amount of oil they use. Grilled items can become unhealthy quickly also due to the use of oil. So what can we do? Here are some suggestions. First, know these pitfalls and be aware when looking at menus. If a meal has a sauce or dressing be careful. Look for fresh items. Second, if meals are large, do not eat the whole meal. Either share the meal or bring part home for another day. Finally, do not be afraid to discuss with the waiter. Ask about the ingredients in sauces and dressings. Ask about butter and oils. Ask if items can be made without cheeses, butters or oils. You might be surprised at how accommodating most restaurants can be. It is your health. You are working hard to become healthier and stronger. Do not let eating out derail your progress.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions to share with others? Feel free to leave  comments and suggestions! Let’s all get healthier together!

Author: drjeffgreenberg

Dr Greenberg is a clinical cardiologist who specializes in preventive cardiology, nutrition, exercise, and longevity. He favors using natural methods to improving one's health.

4 thoughts on “Eating Out? Watch Out!”

  1. Most restaurants have a written breakdown of all the nutritional values in the foods that they serve. Some have it posted on the wall in the establishment or on their website. As I am watching my sodium and saturated fat intake, I find this very helpful. One particular bowl of chicken tortilla soup had 1810 mg. of sodium, which is not healthy, so it helped me make a healthier choice.

    1. It is great that you are taking charge of your health. It is important to look at nutritional information at restaurants when it is available. Ask if you cannot find the information you are looking for. It is your health – take control!

  2. Dr. Greenberg, we find ordering sauces or like items on the side is the best way to control the amounts. Example is ordering mash potato without gravy or anything and adding a small amount for flavor or a baked potato eliminating sour cream and add only a little butter for flavor. We follow this practice regularly along with eliminating many items such as sweeteners. salt, etc. We find it takes some time to adjust to a change in taste however we feel better and we are losing some weight. To control quantity we do share and take home quite often.

    1. These are some great ideas. By eliminating sauces and extra sodium you can actually start really tasting food. Your taste buds do adjust over time and will start to enjoy whole, natural foods.

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