Your Health

Eat smart

Your guide to healthy restaurant eating

restaurant dining

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2014

Much has been said and written about some of the health issues involved with the regular consumption of fast food.

But a recent study from Public Health Nutrition, suggests skipping the drive-through for a sit-down meal in a restaurant isn’t necessarily a good option either.

Researchers found that, in terms of nutrient intake, both fast food and full-service restaurant consumption increased intakes of fat, sugar and salt and lowered intakes of vitamins, milk, and fruits and vegetables. Alarmingly, people consumed a whopping 200 calories more per day on average than people who ate at home. Eating that many extra calories every day could cause a weight gain of nearly a pound every couple of weeks. That could result in a possible 25-pound weight gain in a year.

But there is good news. It’s easier than you think to make good choices when you’re on the go and find it necessary to eat out. Here are some pointers:

Go for balance

Choose meals that have a balance of lean protein (like fish, chicken, legumes), fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. That’s why a turkey sandwich with whole wheat bread (hold the spread), lettuce and a tomato is better than a cheeseburger on a white bun.

Watch portion sizes

The portion sizes of food in North America have increased over the years so we are now eating way more than what we need. Ask for half portions, share a meal with a friend or take half home for the next day.

Choose your beverage carefully

One of the main contributing factors to obesity is poor beverage choice. Pop, juice, frappuccinos, slushies and energy drinks have lots of calories and next to no nutrition value. Stick to low-fat milk, tea or water.

Here are some other restaurant survival tips:

  • Steer clear of breaded, battered or fried foods. Instead choose dishes described as broiled, baked, braised, steamed, roasted, poached or lightly sautéed.
  • Order broth-based soups like minestrone or gazpacho instead of cream soups.
  • Avoid items containing lots of cheese or cream. If a dish comes with a sauce made of butter, cream, oil or any other fat, ask for it to be served on the side and enjoy a small amount.
  • Other descriptions that scream high-fat, high-calorie are aioli, alfredo, au gratin, béarnaise, carbonara, crispy, fondue, hollandaise, smothered, tempura, sweet and sour.
  • Remember that vegetable side dishes often are swimming in fat, so be sure to ask for steamed veggies. Salads are routinely drowned in fatty dressings, so ask for yours on the side and dip into them sparingly.
  • Skip the fries.
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat over fattier cuts like prime rib. Smoked or cured meats such as salami, ham, hot dogs and bacon are high in fat and salt. Order skinless poultry or remove the skin from the meat before eating it.
  • Request your sandwich with mustard rather than mayonnaise, butter or margarine and specify no cheese.
  • If you do eat bread before your meal, choose Melba toast or whole-grain rolls minus the spread.
  • For dessert, order sorbet or fresh, seasonal fruit without whipped topping.

Bottom line: when you eat out, search the menu for healthier options. If in doubt, ask your server and don’t be afraid to request modifications. Most restaurants will try to accommodate you. It can be easy to eat well, even on the run.

Cheryl Ogaranko is a registered dietitian with the Winnipeg Health Region.


About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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