Food And Dining: Tips For A Low Fat Diet While Eating Out

Don't let restaurant dining sabotage your low fat diet. Utilize these tricks to help you stick to your low fat diet while dining out.

If you're on a low fat diet, you may find that restaurant dining presents somewhat of a challenge. Most restaurant entrees are high in fat, poised to sabotage your healthy eating plan. Fortunately, it is possible to maintain a low fat diet no matter where you dine. Here are some tips to help you make the right choices the next time you eat out:

Skip the bread basket. While a small piece of whole grain bread is an acceptable way to start your meal, most restaurant bread baskets are loaded with white flour rolls and breads. It may all look and smell good, but one hunk of white bread smeared with butter and you've already started your meal off on the wrong foot. Tell your server to keep the bread basket away from your table"" far, far away.

Ask for dressings on the side. You've dodged the bread basket and next is the inevitable salad that comes with your entree. Looks innocent enough, doesn't it? And it very well may be"" as long as you take off all the croutons and ask for oil and vinegar or low fat dressing on the side. A salad doused in fatty dressing is a definite recipe for disaster!

Order baked dishes, not fried. When scanning the menu, don't be afraid to ask your server questions about how a dish is prepared. Ask him or her to run back and ask the chef if you have a question that can't be answered. Try to order dishes that are baked or broiled and avoid anything that is breaded or fried.

Watch for cheese and heavy sauces. If a menu item has the word "cheese" in it, you can bet it's the full fat variety. Try to avoid anything that is cheese-laden. Ditto for foods that come swimming in a cream sauce. Ever wonder why restaurant cream sauces taste so good? Butter and lots of it! Skip the cheese and the sauce and order an extra steamed veggie on the side instead.

It's not a sin to have a special request. Just because an entrée comes with French fries, it doesn't mean you have to eat them. Ask for a substitution, like a baked potato or a vegetable. Most restaurants are happy to comply with special requests.

If you have kids with you, don't over-order! It happens every time-- you order for yourself and then separate entrees for all of your kids. Guess what! Kiddie size restaurant portions are still too big for most young children. And when your child only eats two bites of his or her meal, who ends up finishing off all those chicken strips and fries? You know the answer. So, when dining with kids, take the menu into account. You may be able to get away with splitting an adult size entrée with your children. If there isn't a menu item that you can all agree on, go ahead and order something separate for your kids, but if they don't finish it all get it boxed up to go or push it away from your reach.

Keep the dessert tray away. If you don't see it, you won't be tempted. Tell your server in advance that you don't want to see the dessert tray at all. Period.

Tips for Low Fat Eating at Specific Dining Establishments

Fast food restaurants. Did you know a regular fast food hamburger has less fat than most fast food chicken sandwiches? That's because most fast food chicken sandwiches are breaded and fried. So eat a plain hamburger and try to skip the French fries altogether. Or order a salad with low fat dressing instead. You can also take a cue from the kid's menu. Many fast food kid's meals now offer fresh fruit and low fat milk in lieu of fries and soda, so order a plain hamburger kiddie meal for yourself! Avoid milkshakes and order bottled water instead.

If you dine at a fried chicken eatery, try taking the skin off of the chicken before you eat it. Order vegetable side dishes instead of macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes with gravy.

Mexican restaurants. Skip the complimentary tortilla chips-- they may be free, but they aren't fat free! In addition, say no to sour cream and guacamole and load up on the salsa instead. Watch out for cheesy dishes and taco salads that come served in edible tortilla shell bowls-- the shells are fried, so ask for your salad to be served without the shell. Skip the refried beans that come as a side with your entrée platter. While beans in general are a healthy, low fat food, many Mexican restaurants cook them in lard. Eat the Mexican rice instead.

Italian restaurants. Many Italian eateries offer all you can eat salad and garlic bread with your meal. Feel free to indulge in the salad, but ask for it to be served with oil and vinegar or fat free dressing on the side. Skip the buttery garlic bread altogether. Avoid cheesy baked entrees like lasagna, manicotti or chicken parmesan, and opt for baked or broiled chicken and pasta with tomato sauce.

Chinese restaurants. Don't be misled by entrees boasting chicken, rice, and vegetables-- many Chinese entrees are quite high in fat due to the sauces and cooking processes. Avoid Chinese fried rice, fried chow mein noodles and heavy sauces like sweet and sour sauce. Choose steamed rice and veggie dishes instead.

Pizza parlors. When ordering a pizza, ask for half the cheese and extra tomato sauce. Go for healthy toppings like mushrooms, green peppers and onions. Avoid greasy meat toppings like sausage and pepperoni. Use a napkin to sop up the grease from the top of you pizza before you eat it-- you'll be amazed how much grease will come off.

Steak houses. While the purpose of eating at a steak house is usually to eat a steak, it's not the best place to go if you're trying to watch your fat intake. However, if you're dining with someone who is craving a steak dinner, let them indulge. As for yourself, check for any chicken or fish entrees (not fried). Order a salad with dressing on the side and a side dish like rice, a baked potato or baked beans.

Salad bars/buffets. Watch what you put on your salad. Bacon bits, cheese, hard boiled eggs and cheesy creamy dressings aren't exactly low fat. Try salad bar items that you don't usually have at home-- beets, bean sprouts, raw cauliflower or broccoli. Try to skip the dessert end of the buffet table. If pudding or cake slices are offered, stick to fresh fruit chunks instead.

Of course, if it's a special occasion and your friends decide to "surprise" you by having the wait staff come out with a cake and sing "Happy Birthday" to you, don't feel as though you can't have a taste or two of dessert. If you've followed the steps to make sure your main meal is low fat, a small bit of dessert on occasion won't thwart your efforts!

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