Facing a gargantuan restaurant menu full of culinary delights can make any healthful eater buckle. But there’s hope. To help you make smart choices, we asked some leading chefs to share their professional secrets. Their suggestions prove that dining out doesn’t have to be a dilemma when your health is at stake.
“If you eat properly at home, you’ll have a head start when it comes to making wise selections from restaurant menus,” says Chris Smith, an executive chef and author of Cooking with the Diabetic Chef. “Whether you’re eating out or cooking at home, follow your meal plan and remember portion control,” he says.
Size your servings smarter.
Generally, you can eat just about anything if you practice moderation,” Smith says, “but unfortunately, many restaurants serve large portions so patrons will feel they’re getting their money’s worth.”
To avoid overeating, consider sharing an entree with a companion, ordering an appetizer as a main course or asking for a child’s portion. You also can ask for a take-home box as soon as your meal arrives, then put some aside right away. Whatever you do, go easy on the bread. “One piece is probably OK, especially if it’s a whole-grain bread,” Smith says. “Don’t eat half of the basket.”
Broiled, sauteed, grilled and roasted dishes are often the most healthful. Select a side of fresh steamed vegetables or a baked potato (then go light on the butter and skip the sour cream). And since prepared low-fat salad dressings are often high in sugar, Smith suggests choosing a simple vinaigrette and having it served on the side. This way, you can use it as a dip for your salad.
Choose your meals with care, advises William “Bo” Kozak, a retired Minnesota chef. “I try to select simple chicken and fish dishes, fresh salads and vegetables,” he says. “If I want dessert, I choose one that isn’t swimming in syrup or buried under whipped cream. Fruit is a good option.”
Pose some questions.
If you can’t tell how something is made, check into it. “Ask how a dish is prepared. You need to know if it’s high in fat, carbohydrates or sugar,” says Bob Millhoff, an award-winning chef in Wisconsin.
Your servers are the first people to ask about menu items. If they can’t answer your questions, ask to speak directly with the chef. “If you’re going to be dining when the restaurant is busy, call ahead at a slower time to talk to someone who can answer your questions,” Millhoff says.
“Never be embarrassed to ask for a different preparation,” says Smith. “Good chefs like having challenges and pleasing their customers.”
(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at www.bhg.com.)
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