What to Eat When You Eat Out

By Nonna Joann • Mar 4th, 2010 • Category: Nonna's Nutrition News & Views

Sipping girlAfter showing moms my year-old Happy Meal, they want to know what they can eat out. Eating out used to be a treat. Families went out to dinner occasionally. Now people eat out several times a week. It ’s always a challenge, because restaurant food is a landmine full of sugar, bleached flours, trans fat and artificial ingredients.

The best bet is to find local mom and pop eateries who serve locally grown real food. Also, organic restaurants are becoming more popular. Find one in your area.

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Most of the food you purchase out isn’t real. Ever wonder about those eggs in a hotel or chain breakfast eatery? Chefs don’t crack open eggs; they pour a highly processed egg mixture from a box. Creamy soups are made with trans fat, not milk. The “special” sauce on your hamburger is a concoction of trans fat, sugar and chemicals.

Rachel loves lemonade made with Stevia.

It is as simple as asking about the food you’re ordering. Don’t be shy. So many people are on special diets; nobody cares. Many menu items would be healthy if it weren’t for the way they were prepared. Ask for your vegetables and main dishes to be served without the sauces. Ask for olive oil and vinegar be brought to your table for your salads. Ask to have your food broiled or steamed. Most independent restaurants cater to the needs and tastes of its customers, so ask for whole foods.

Drink Water
More than 15 billion gallons of soda pop were sold in 2000. That’s least one 12-ounce can per day for every man, woman, and child in America. In the past 10 years, soft drink consumption among children has almost doubled in the United States. You not only save when you eat out when you drink water, but you’ll be healthier for it. Another option is to order unsweetened iced tea. For the kids add a packet of Stevia (a natural sweetener) and squeeze lemon slices into a glass of water to make your own lemonade. Of course sipping with a straw makes it more special.

Avoid ALL Fried Food
I no longer purchase any fried food…NONE at all. Trans fats hide in fried foods. Even if the restaurant uses healthy oils (most don’t), it’s used until it turns to sludge. Furthermore, oil is heated to very high temperatures, turning even healthy oils into a trans fat. The fried food you eat out, isn’t like the food you fry at home. Click Here to see year-old French fries.

Skip the Bread
As soon as the wait-person comes to your table ask that he/she NOT bring any bread. There’s nothing more tempting than the white trans fat bread setting on the table. Even the brown bread is most likely not a whole grain. Out of site out of mind.

Go Naked
“Undress” your food. When choosing items, be aware of where the chemicals are hiding: salad dressings, spreads, tortilla and taco shells, etc. One of my favorite places to purchase lunch out is Chipotle’s Mexican Grill. Chipotle’s began in Colorado and is now a national chain. They use unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, naturally raised, hormone free, organic food. Trans fat will sneak in the most unsuspecting places, even at Chipotlie’s. Tortillas are usually made with a trans fat. I always order the Fajita Bowl, skipping the fajita burrito which comes wrapped in a tortilla.

Fast Food Options
The best option is “just say no” to fast food. What can you do if you find yourself there anyway? Chose broiled and grilled chicken sandwiches as well as a regular hamburger or roast beef sandwich instead of jumbo burgers and fried sandwiches. Skip special sauces and dips and ask for extra lettuce, tomatoes, onions and mustard on sandwiches. (I wouldn’t eat the bread either, but hey that’s up to you.)

I don’t frequent Starbucks, because I’m not a coffee drinker. If I’m away from home and thirsty I like to order their Orange Mango Vivanno Smoothie. It’s made with a real banana, milk and orange mango juice. Stated on their website “we removed the trans fats, artificial flavors, artificial dyes and high fructose corn syrup from everything in our food case.”  Of course there’s still a lot of sugar in their drinks, but it’s good to know that they’re making an effort.

I don’t know of a take out pizza without trans fat in it’s crust. I usually make mine at home. But if you order out, the vegetable pizza will be your best bet. Pepperoni and sausage are loaded with nitrates. So by all means, avoid those toppings.

Dining Out
Entrees: Good choices include entrees which are steamed, poached, roasted, or baked in their own juices.

Salads & Veggies: Choose salads made with rich dark greens like spinach and romaine rather than pale iceberg lettuce. Ask that vinegar and olive oil be brought to your table. Select dark, leafy greens, raw vegetables and fruits, lean turkey and cottage cheese

Skip Dessert
Dessert is loaded with sugars, white flours, artificial ingredients and trans fats. Dessert jacks up your bill. Sip dessert.

Baby BitesCLICK HERE for ordering information for Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater and The Forest Feast: Baby Bites Mealtime Adventures.

For info about the free Baby Bites Ezine, CLICK HERE.

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3 comments on »

  1. Chipotle is a good choice BUT I taught a lesson to the 5th graders last year about ordering out and it was at that time I learned Chipotle is OFF the chart with sodium levels. You can not create a meal from them without going over the DAILY limit. Yep. So if you have issues with high BP I would recommend to steer far away from Chipotle.

    Good point, Julie-ann! I did NOT take into account the sodium levels in any of my recommendations. At some point, you have to decide what to eat when you’re out and I feel trans fat is much worse than sodium. Trans fat has a half-life of 51 days, that means it takes 51 days to leave your system. Sodium will be an issue with most food chains. Hopefully, we eat at home most times and eat out seldom…Nonna Joann

  2. Good work!!! Keep it up!!! The information about the half-life of trans fat was shocking, to say the least. We are moving toward more at home meals and less eating out, but it is hard to teach these old dogs new tricks.

  3. There is a new pizza franchise called Z Pizza, they use organic ingredients, nitrate free meats & offer a vegan pizza & several crust choices including a gluten free crust. Not sure about trans fat in crust, but I would guess you could check into it easily since they are all about their ingredients.

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