Tips for Dining Out


Whenever I meet with the Chairperson of Governor’s Fitness Council to discuss the Board’s yearly activities, she always lectures me about good eating habits and physical activity as if I just came on the scene the day before. The more she rambles on and on, at the end of the day she tells me: “It’s the mother in me.” Well, mother hen raked me over the coals last week about my eating habits when I dine out. Boy, she chewed me out good and told me I better show some improvement! So, if I must suffer through these lectures so should you. Here’s her breakdown.


Do not abandon good eating habits if you are “on the run” and must have fast food. There are some on the market that can actually satisfy your nutritional needs without that tremendous overload of FAT and sodium. Fast foods may not make ideal meals, but some do offer healthy carbohydrates and only moderate amounts of FAT. You also can downplay FAT excess by sorting out subtle differences among them. Consider these points the next time you are grabbing breakfast on the run:

  1. Keep it simple. The fewer ingredients you order in breakfast sandwiches, the lower the FAT, sodium and calories. Forget the sausage and bacon.
  2. Can’t get enough muffins. Muffins are recent additions to several fast-food menus. McDonald’s apple-bran muffin is a GOOD choice because it has no FAT or cholesterol and only 190 calories.
  3. Hold the butter. The English muffin is the least fattening breakfast food on most quick-service menus. Order it dry and drink juice to wash it down. This virtually eliminates FAT.
  4. Choose “cakes” instead of eggs. Pancakes offer more energizing carbohydrate and less FAT and cholesterol than egg dishes or biscuits. Go easy on the syrup.

Lunch and Dinner

Most major franchise fast-food restaurants now shun animal FATS and try to dilute calorie-laden menus with “lighter” fare, such as salads and chicken. Some of these restaurants add only a façade of healthfulness to food that is still too high in FAT and Sodium. Be choosey.

Grilled chicken sandwiches, without breading and deep-FAT frying, are the ones to choose. These sandwiches have at least one-third less FAT than deep-FAT fried chicken sandwiches. Here are some suggestions for how you truly can trim calories and FAT:

  1. Be salad savvy. Avoid the mistake of thinking “salad” is synonymous with “diet food.” Salads can be sneaky about FAT and calories. The meat and cheese in chef salads invariably overpower the vegetables to increase FAT and sodium content. Chicken and seafood salads usually are lower in FAT and calories, averaging less than 200 calories without dressing. Remember this trick; put the dressing on the side and lightly touch your fork-full of food, just to get the taste. Ask for low calorie or FAT free salad dressings.
  2. Choose chicken carefully. Chicken may be naturally lower in FAT than hamburger, but when breaded and fried, it loses its nutritional edge.
  3. Be suspicious of specialty sandwiches. Even non-fried sandwiches made with lean turkey or ham can be deceiving. General clues to keep in mind when deciding about this type of sandwich are its size and the amount of cheese, mayonnaise or special sauces.
  4. Order the smallest burger. You know you are headed for calories and FAT if you order a burger billed “jumbo,” “ultimate,” “double” or “deluxe.” You may have to search the menu board a bit, but all major franchises offer a hamburger with less than 300 calories. Condiments such as lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard add very few calories, but mayonnaise and other sauces are packed with calories and FAT.

She found a way to get healthily-prepared chicken or fish in any restaurant. It takes a bit of explaining to your server, but it CAN be done. If you order chicken, specify SKINLESS CHICKEN; if you order fish, specify the FRESH FISH. (Frozen frequently contains some sort of breading and always has preservatives.) Look your server straight in the eye and explain to him/her that you would like your chicken/fish broiled, grilled or baked, with NO BUTTER, NO SALT, just lemon juice on it. Also, order extra lemon wedges served with it, so you might squeeze it on top before you begin eating. If you ask your server to explain it to the cook in this manner, chances are you will get what you asked for.

Well, end of lecture. Now that wasn’t so bad, huh? Live well, stay well — Rudy