Canadians, it seems, love to eat out often. By making wise choices, you may not only treat yourself to some special dishes, but you also ensure that your restaurant meals fit into your overall heart-healthy eating plan.
When eating out, you're still in charge of what you eat even though you're not doing the cooking. More and more restaurants today are happy to accommodate individual preferences, so feel free to ask questions about how a dish is cooked or to make requests, such as asking for salad dressing on the side or having a baked potato instead of French fries. (You'll still want to avoid loading up your potato with sour cream, butter and bacon bits.) A steady diet of excess fat, calories and salt may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Many restaurant chains now post nutrition information on menus or on their websites consistent with the Nutrition Facts table on packaged foods.
If you're going out for dinner, make sure you eat lunch or you may be too hungry to make healthy choices. At the restaurant, opt for a whole-grain offering from the breadbasket as opposed to higher-fat, buttery garlic bread. Appetizers tend to be very high in fat and calories, so choose a vegetable-based soup or a dark, leafy green salad with dressing on the side, instead of the deep-fried calamari or the creamy crab dip.
When you see the words baked, barbecued, broiled, charbroiled, grilled, poached, roasted, steamed or stir-fried, it most likely means the food is cooked with little or no fat and therefore a healthy choice.
Take a pass
When you see the words Alfredo sauce, au gratin, cheese sauce, battered, breaded, buttered, creamed, crispy, deep-fried, en croute, fried, hollandaise, pan-fried, pastry, prime, rich, sauteed, scalloped, gravy, mayonnaise, thick sauce, it usually means that the food is higher in fat and calories.
Similarly, foods that are pickled, smoked, or are served with soy sauce mean that the food is higher in sodium. (Ask for sodium-reduced soy sauce.)
Portion sizes in restaurants are often large, so share or take half of your meal home for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. Read more about Canada’s Food Guide recommended portion sizes.
Keep dessert light and simple, such as fresh fruit with sherbet. If you can't resist a rich dessert, indulge occasionally or share it with your tablemates.
Last reviewed: January 2015