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Whether you’re grabbing take away or enjoying an evening at a five-star restaurant, dining out can be a challenge to your health. Here’s the skinny on making you next restaurant meal a healthier one.

Menu stash Don’t leave your choices to chance - or your appetite. At work and home, keep a stash of menus from nearby restaurants that offer healthy dishes. When travelling, go for restaurants with light menu items and vegetarian options, and pack nutritious snacks when you know your choices are slim.

Background check Chances are, full nutritional disclosure won’t be on the menu. Ask the staff about your food, including preparation, ingredients, and serving sizes. Food that are grilled, steamed and baked, or broiled usually contain less oil and fat than fried or braised dishes. Fresh vegetables and fruits plates are often good choices.

Special Requests Se if you can substitute hot chops for vegetables or fruit, get the (light) salad dressing on the side, and ask for tortillas with your salsa instead of corn chips at Mexican restaurants you can cut your calorie and fat intake by requesting half the usual amount of cheese. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

Pre-meal sabotage Ever eaten so many rolls that you’re stuffed when your main meal arrives. Nip that in the bud with a big salad - the more vegetables, the better (try to avoid croutons, bacon bits and salad dressing).

Tune up Tired of your fitness routine? Why not try a new exercise video of DVD? Or, for a real splurge, sign up for personal training sessions to fine tune your workout.

Turn on Research shows that music stimulates our bodies and focuses our minds.

Take time Don’t forget to reward yourself for your persistence. But instead of indulging in holiday treats, do something good for your muscles - a professional massage can relax a body that’s stiff from the cold.

Portion control Choose restaurants that permit half orders, whatever the plate charge might be. Or just eat half your meal, and take home the rest in a doggie bag for a later meal. You may opt for an entree as you main meal, which often solves the portion problem. And instead of ordering dessert, ask if you can have a 20-calorie bite of your companion’s 2000-calorie “death by chocolate” cheesecake.

More water, please To wash down your deliciously healthy meal, have a glass of water with a twist of lemon or lime. You can’t beat the calorie count, or the price!

*Always read the label, use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.

** Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 7 grams of soluble fibre from psyllium husk, as in Meta products, may lower cholesterol levels. Reductions in cholesterol levels may contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease. Consult a doctor if you are planning to take Meta products as part of a cholesterol lowering program.

^ Whorwell Clinical Trial, UK 2006. Am J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jul;101(7):1581-90