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Americans enjoy restaurants. Ethnic, gourmet, family style, fast food, deli . . . More people are eating out than ever before. In fact, according to the American Restaurant Association over 50% of all meals in the United States, today is consumed in restaurants. And that figure is predicted to climb to 75% by the 1990’s.

Pleasurable as the experience may be, dining out can pose a serious problem for cardiac health. Restaurant foods contain oil, butter, cream, lard, meat drippings, fatty meat, cheese, cheese sauce and other saturated fats in liberal amounts. Also, many items are sauteed, fried, pan fried, or deep fried. As a result, restaurant meals can be extremely high in saturated fat, as well as in salt, sugar, cholesterol and total calories. Such meals are in direct opposition to healthful eating.

The alternatives available in this situation are few. A person can eat what the restaurant serves and suffer the health consequences, or he can avoid restaurants altogether and in doing so eliminate a pleasurable experience. Or he can apply the fundamental principles of the Positive Diet to menu selections to make intelligent and healthy food selections.

The first two alternatives are unrealistic and unacceptable in the long term. The third alternative — the use of a low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-salt, low-sugar criterion against which restaurant food must be measured — is the only way to reconcile dining out with eating right. When this alternative is exercised, dining in a restaurant can be both an enjoyable and a beneficial experience. How is this accomplished? By following three guidelines:

► Have an understanding of the basic principles

and be familiar with their application.

►Be inquisitive. Ask questions at the restaurant about ingredients and methods of preparation. Know what you are ordering.

►Be innovative. Use creative substitution to replace the unhealthy elements in restaurant foods with healthy ones.

Knowing the basic principles and how they apply to food selection is fundamental to success in restaurant dining. This comes, of course, with the practice of the Positive Diet at home. Often

I will recommend to a person just beginning the Positive Diet that he should stay away from restaurants until he feels comfortable with the diet. This gives him time to concentrate his total effort on understanding and practicing the diet at home and allows him to make the principles for healthful eating a permanent fixture in his life.

When that occurs, he is in a better position to handle restaurant menus. But regardless of whether or not this course is taken, a person needs to be familiar with the Positive Diet before he can apply its precepts to restaurant food.

The second guideline is to be inquisitive. Find out what the restaurant offers and how the food is prepared. Ask questions of the personnel. It does no good to understand the low-fat principle, for example, if you cannot put it into effect in a restaurant. And you cannot put it into effect if you do not ask questions.

I remember an early visit to a restaurant which was made soon after the start of the Positive Diet. Being conscious of the fat content of marbled red meat, I avoided the prime rib, the sirloin steak, and the spareribs in favor of a broiled salmon filet. But when the fish arrived, it was swimming in a fat-laden butter sauce.

And the same sauce covered the vegetables and the rice. I hadn’t reduced fat consumption by one whit! This discouraging episode took place because I did not question the preparation of the food before ordering. Had I realized that butter sauce came “automatically,” I could have avoided the problem by asking that the sauce is held.

The same key questions which are posed by the Positive Diet at home must be asked in restaurants: is the dish made with butter, oil, cream, or animal fat? Is it fried or deep-fat fried? Is the dressing made with cream? Are large quantities of salt or sugar added to the food in the cooking process?

The practice of the Positive Diet at home can provide you with these and other logical questions. Often restaurant personnel are very knowledgeable about food content and cooking methods and can be helpful in the attainment of dietary goals. But they cannot help if you do not ask questions and tell them what you want.

Finally, be innovative. The basic principles will tell you what is not acceptable fare. Even a neophyte practitioner of the Positive Diet knows enough to avoid foods such as fried hamburgers, fried chicken,

French fries and milkshakes; salami sandwiches, pickles and potato chips; fried eggs, bacon, fried potatoes and toast with butter; fatty spareribs, sour cream as a condiment for baked potatoes, Thousand Island dressing and cheesecake. Such foods are to be avoided in restaurants, just as they are to be avoided at home.

Often creative substitution can be used on a restaurant menu to strip away the unhealthy elements, yet preserve much of the taste and the semblance of the dish. Order a club sandwich, for example, without the bacon. Skip cream soups in favor of beef or chicken broth.

Then ask the waiter for fresh mushrooms, spinach, pasta or a slice of tomato to add to the soup. Instead of sour cream on a baked potato, ask for salsa. Instead of butter on steamed clams or lobster tails, ask for fresh lemon wedges. If you’re out for breakfast and must eat eggs, order them poached, boiled or shirred, but never fried. Or have Eggs Benedict — without the hollandaise sauce.

There are many enjoyable restaurant foods which conform to the Positive Diet. Do not take a “doom and gloom” approach, but rather open your mind to the endless possibilities available. If your attitude is positive, and if you are mentally and emotionally committed to making the Positive Diet work, then neither the menu choices offered nor the food selection of others will negatively affect your decision to eat healthfully.
Tips for Ordering in a Restaurant

Appetizers: Avoid those made with saturated oil, butter, and cheese, or those who are pickled or salted. Acceptable choices are oysters (raw, baked or steamed); steamed mussels; clam, crab, oyster and lobster cocktails; service; steamed or raw vegetables, such as fresh artichokes with lemon juice or salsa or a vegetable antipasto.

Soups: Skip the cream and meat soups. Order gazpacho, oxtail soup, consomme, beef or chicken broth.

Entrees: Avoid fatty meat, deep-fried fish, and foods containing sauces and gravies. Acceptable choices include broiled or poached fish, such as salmon, halibut, cod or trout; shellfish, such as clams, crab, lobster, oysters, and scallops; baked, roasted or broiled chicken; roasted turkey; broiled veal. On occasion, broiled lean red meat, such as rack of lamb or New York steak are acceptable.

Vegetables: Avoid pickled vegetables or those prepared with butter, cream or cheese sauces. Order fresh vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli or mushrooms, either raw or lightly steamed. Baked or mashed potatoes, rice, and pasta are acceptable but beware of butter, sour cream and bacon bits.

Bread: Avoid commercial bakery products made with butter, shortening, and sugar, as well as salted items, such as crackers, saltines, and pretzels. Acceptable choices include plain bread-sticks, hard rolls, rye crisp, Melba toast, sourdough rolls, bagels and English muffins.

Salads: Many delicious salads are available with lettuce, spinach, romaine, green peppers, water chestnuts, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and sprouts. Use oil and vinegar (make sure that the oil is not palm or coconut), fresh lemon and pepper, or plain vinegar dressing. Avoid creamy dressing such as sour cream, Thousand Island and Blue Cheese. Avoid salads with strips of meat and cheese. A good innovation is to order a chef’s salad without the ham; specify that the cheese is low-fat (mozzarella, for example) and that the dressing is oil and vinegar and served on the side. There are many appetizing salads made with

Chicken, tuna, turkey, and crab. With a little picking and choosing, these can be heart-healthy fare. For innovation, order a Salad Nicoise and omit the anchovies or pickled vegetables. Fruit salads offer a wide range of possibilities. No matter what the season, fresh fruit is always available.

Sandwiches: Avoid fatty processed meats, hard cheese, fried foods, and foods with sauces and gravies. Order sandwiches made with tuna, sliced chicken or turkey (white meat), crab, lobster or vegetables. Be conscious of the mayonnaise. Any cheese should be low-fat. Innovate by ordering a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich without the bacon; or crab on an English muffin with low-fat cheese, such as mozzarella; or a French Dip without the dip. Use different pieces of bread — Armenian, rye, French, sourdough, whole wheat — to provide variety.

Desserts: Avoid commercial pastries, pies, cakes, and candy. Fresh fruit, gelatine, sherbet, sorbet, ices and unfrosted angel food cake are good alternatives to high-calorie desserts. Occasionally, a piece of carrot cake without the frosting is acceptable.

Breakfasts: Avoid fatty meats, whole eggs, fried foods and sugared cereals. Maximize the use of fresh fruit. If you must eat eggs, do it only occasionally, and order them poached, boiled or shirred, but never fried. If you must eat breakfast meats, Canadian bacon or a small broiled steak are better than regular bacon, sausage or ham. For innovation, try Eggs Benedict without the hollandaise sauce or bagels without the cream cheese. Even an omelet can be acceptable if cooked in a non-stick pan or an unsaturated oil.

Beverages: Avoid drinks rich in sugar, alcohol or salt. Acceptable choices include fruit juice, mineral water, herb-ed tea, decaffeinated coffee or skim milk. Drink wine in moderation. For innovation, make your second drink a Virgin Mary or a glass of mineral water with a slice of lime.

Remember, you can eat better and with more control at home. But when you do dine out, you can eat as healthfully as possible by using the Positive Diet as your guide.

Sharmin Begum

The author Sharmin Begum

I have loved spicy food, Mexican in particular, since I was a child as my father was from El Paso where I acquired a taste for it on our many visits. I have cooked Tex-Mex all my adult life, but about 7 years ago I began cooking authentic Mexican food using my own ingredients and making my own tortillas, tamales, etc. On one of my visits to NM I attended the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta and took some excellent cooking classes at the Santa Fe Cooking School and the Old Mexico Grill. I love New Mexican food equally as well as Mexican.

I also grow my own chile peppers, tomatillos, and herbs like cilantro and epazote because they are not available locally.

I got into web publishing because I enjoy “meeting” fellow Chile-heads from all over the world and sharing my passion with them.

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