Dining Out Tips

It is important to understand what's on the menu when you eat out. The good news: You can eat heart-healthy if you know what to look for. Many restaurants offer delicious meals that are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, or will prepare your food to order.

Keep these tips in mind when deciphering the menu:
  • Remember that foods served fried, au gratin, crispy, scalloped, pan-fried, sauteed, buttered, creamed or stuffed are high in fat and calories. Instead, look for steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached, or roasted foods.
  • If, based on the menu description, you are not sure how a meal is prepared or what ingredients it contains, ask your server. Also ask if the restaurant can prepare your food to order by going very light or leaving off butter, cheese, or dressings.
  • Choose entrees that feature seafood, chicken or lean meat, and avoid fatty meats. If you order meat, remove all visible fat and ask the chef to remove the skin from the chicken.
  • Check the menu for items marked "healthy," or ask the server what the healthiest choices on the menu are.
Follow these tips when ordering your meal:
  • Ask for butter, cream cheese, salad dressings, sauces and gravies to be served on the side, so you can control the quantity you consume.
  • Choose desserts carefully. Fresh fruit, fruit ice, sherbet, gelatin and angel food cake are good alternatives to more traditional fat and cream laden desserts.
  • Ask if smaller portions are available or if you can share an entree with a companion. Also, you can ask for a to-go box when you order and place half the entree in the box to eat later.
  • Ask whether healthy substitutions are possible. For example, if a dish comes with French fries or onion rings, ask whether you can get a baked potato with vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free sour cream or soft margarine on the side. Instead of mayonnaise-laden coleslaw, ask if you can get a small salad, fruit or vegetables instead. Although some substitutions may cost a little extra, the health benefits are well worth it.