New Castle News


August 31, 2011

Restaurants can be friend or foe

NEW CASTLE — Restaurants can be one of the major sources of healthy goal satisfaction or goal sabotage.

It all depends on how you choose to order.

Many restaurants enjoy meeting your requests to the best of their ability if you specify how you would like your meal prepared. Much of the experience depends on how you approach the menu, plus sharpening your ordering skills.

Learn to have good conversations with your server. When eating out, you can make a big difference in your fat and calorie intake at restaurants. Be willing to ask if the restaurant is able to make substitutions. Also, do not be afraid to specify how you would like your meal prepared.

Our Ornish participants are reporting back to us that now, more than ever, restaurants are willing to accommodate requests. So when ordering, be willing to inquire. Ask if the restaurant serves fat-free (skim) milk rather than whole milk or cream. Or perhaps you would be willing to go for 2 percent milk in your coffee if you are used to cream. Remember, you may have to ask for this.

When modifying a meal to lower fat, begin by asking if they take special requests, or say that you are on a medical diet if you are working to reduce high cholesterol, lower high blood pressure or if you have diabetes. You don’t have to get personal and discuss your health issue. Special requests can be a positive thing. After all, you are special and you are worth it when the focus is your health.

Select or order foods that are steamed in their own juice (au jus), broiled, baked, roasted, poached or lightly sautéed. Even if they are not listed on the menu this way, be brave and asked if your entree can be prepared using one of these healthier methods.

Consider asking to leave all butter, gravy, or cream sauces off of the dish. If that is too harsh, request that the gravy come on the side to own your portion control. Also, order salad dressings on the side and ask if there is a “light” or no-fat salad dressing option. Also, request that less cooking oil is used when preparing your entree. For example, salmon is still delicious grilled without the butter sauce.

One of our Ornish couples loves to go to the Olive Garden. They still get the big family-style salad, but without dressing. They bring their own individual packets of fat-free dressing that carry easily in a purse. They ask the waitress to keep the bread sticks off the table. They are held until they are done eating and they take the breadsticks home to their hungry teen-age boys — who are also eating healthier but can afford to eat these buttery carbs.

This woman admits that she cannot limit herself to one or even just two of those breadsticks. So she has decided to understand this about herself and simply not have them on the table. If you can self monitor, please enjoy a breadstick with your meal if you choose.

For their entrée, a healthier choice on the menu is angel hair marinara instead of one of the creamy pastas. This couple enjoys their evening out and has found a way to still stick to their goals.

You can do this at many restaurants. Look for how you can make the healthiest choice for the foods you love. Be willing to order something different than your usual if it can begin to create a healthier pattern when eating out.

I would like to suggest that you save your dessert until you get home. You can save some money, but more importantly, you can save some fat intake.

This week I am including a recipe for a Crock Pot Chocolate Kahlua Cake. It is fun because you can put it on ahead of time, enjoy your night out and come home to a warm, comfort food that is still within the goal of improving your health.

(Lori Brothers is the director of The Dean Ornish Program For Reversing Heart Disease at Jameson Hospital.)

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