Figuring out restaurant menus can be tricky when you have diabetes. Learn how to order the right foods, in the right portion sizes, so you can eat out without the guilt.
Entries tagged with: portion control
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You don’t have to skip parties just because you have diabetes. Learn how to navigate high-calorie party foods without ruining your diet.
Portion sizes have soared over the last 20 years. This can make it difficult to eat healthy, especially if you have diabetes. Learn how to quickly calculate healthy portion sizes whether you're eating out or dining at home.
"Eat out less if you want to weigh less."
You may have heard someone spout this weight-loss tip as conventional wisdom. While restaurant portion sizes can tip the scales and dishes are often gussied up with more cheese, fat and salt than you might use in home cooking, you don't have to give up dining out to maintain your weight.
It's like telling people leave their cars in the garage if they want to avoid getting into an automobile accident.
To improve highway safety we need driver's education. The same goes for safely navigating a restaurant menu. We need more diners' education. Here are some rules for the road ... ahem ... menu:
Map Out Menu Choices
Read the menu and listen carefully when servers list the specials. Check out the menu online to help you plan a safe route. That's what Nicole Jones, who founded a dinner club group that eats out in Atlanta once a month, does.
"I'm a planner and if I want to splurge on a dessert I pick my appetizer more carefully," Jones says. "I even ask the waiter to bring the dessert menu before I order my entrée!"
I met Jones and her group of foodie friends at an Atlanta restaurant where she enjoyed the mussels and tiramisu. Here are their tips for eating out without gaining weight.
Signal Your Intentions
Be specific about what you want or don't want. For example, "Can you lightly brush the fish with butter?" or "Ask the chef not to salt my food."
"Every restaurant we've been to has diet friendly recommendations which are just as tasty," Jones says.
Be Aware of Surroundings
Remember where you are. Ask for balsamic vinegar in an Italian place and rice wine vinegar in a Japanese place to add non-fat flavor to foods. Béarnaise sauce at steak houses often arrives in a huge gravy boat, best kept way on the side.
Be honest when the waiter asks you how you like your meal. Don't suffer in silence. They want to work fast to make you happy.
Use Your Mirrors
Check out the room. Look around and see what other diners are eating so you get a visual on portion sizes. Way too large? Split the entrée or plan to box up half for carry-out. Spying on other tables will also let you see if an entrée "served with spring greens" is either a sizable serving of salad or a disappointing wisp of lettuce garnish. Take special note of road hazards. Jones admits the freshly baked bread served with marinara and warm goat cheese is hard to resist.
Oh Waiter! Make eye contact, smile and appreciate your server. It's just human nature--waiters are likely to spend more time at friendly tables. Tip for good service when the server goes to the mat for your special order request. They're not doing it for their health-even if you are! Let them know they'll be rewarded ahead of time by saying, "If you help us eat a little less, we'll tip you a little more." Smaller hips, bigger tips!!
Enjoy the Ride
Make dining out a special occasion and enjoy the conversation as much as the cuisine. That's what Jones and her dining companions do. Good conversation can help distract you from the dessert menu.
Getting stuffed on a big, greasy burger has never been easier. Big burgers are everywhereand by big, I mean gargantuan-sized creations of beef and bun bursting with layers of fatty patties, bacon, cheese and all the trimmings. What's a nutrition-minded burger lover to do?
Happily there's a middle ground. "You don't need a half pound of beef," says registered dietitian Betsy Hornick, co-author of the Healthy Beef Cookbook. "Three to four ounces should be your goal."
Restaurant menus often list the uncooked weight: A half-pound burger is 6 ounces cooked, and a quarter-pound burger is 3 ounces cooked weight.
Beef gets a bad rap because it's high in cholesterol and saturated fat. If you're building your own burger, you can reduce the amount of both by choosing leaner beef. A 3-ounce burger made from 85 percent lean beef has around 13 g of total fat, 5 g of saturated fat. (For a 2,000-calorie diet, the American Heart Association recommends you consume only 16 g of saturated fat a day.
But the nutrition news isn't all bad for hamburgers. Beef can be a great source of protein as well as important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorous and choline, Hornick says.
And even the type of saturated fat in beefcalled stearic acidmay not affect blood cholesterol, according to recent research. "We've learned that stearic acid has more a neutral effect on cholesterol," she says.
Here's some other ways to make your burger healthier:
Cook burgers on a grill instead of a griddle.
An open grill allows excess fat to drip off. "I recommend that half-inch thick patties be grilled over medium hot coals for 11 to 13 minutes to medium doneness until no longer pink in the center and juices show no pink color," Hornick says. "Turn just once so the burgers stay juicy."
Choose a healthier bun.
More restaurants are offering whole grain burger buns which are higher in fiber and add a few more nutrients. "Avoid burgers on croissants or huge overpowering buns. New, thinner sandwich bread-style burger buns and pita bread can be a good lower calorie choice, too."
Be choosey about cheese.
Each slice of cheese adds about 100 calories. If you must have cheese, Hornick suggests using a small amount of highly flavored cheeses such as aged cheddar, pepper jack or blue cheese crumbles.
Watch the extras.
Loading on the bacon, pork belly, fried eggs, pancetta, mayo and mayo-based sauces can add hundred of extra caloriesand lots of fatto a burger.
Mustards are marvelous with beef and very low in calories. Mushrooms and onions add great flavor to beef, but ask for them grilled instead of sautéed in butter. If you're making them at home, cook them in heart-healthy olive oil.
Ask to 'super size' the lettuce, tomato, raw onion, pickle and other fresh veggie garnish on your burger to boost nutrient content, add crunch, flavor with very few calories.
Hornick says the burger is a tasty vehicle for getting folks to eat more vegetables, "How about sliced zucchini or eggplant on your burger? Grilled vegetables are awesome on burgers or served on the side."
Travel the world.
Burgers may be an American comfort food, but more restaurant menus are offering an international take with Mexican, Italian, Greek and Asian flavor ideas. "It opens peoples imagination with all of these different toppings and sauces and there's a lot of great ones such as a Mediterranean burger with hummus," Hornick says.
"I like the Indian inspired cucumber and yogurt raita on a grilled burger or you can go tropical with grilled pineapple or a mango and black bean salsa on burgers."
Related Links:How to raise your good cholesterol
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