Not all "healthy" restaurant meals are created equal. When dining out, protect yourself from being deceived by incorporating these tips from Beth LaCoste, nutritional expert for TOPS Club (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weigh-loss support organization.Investigate, ask your server how items are prepared and look at the restaurant menu's nutrition information online in advance, if available. With a bit of planning, your diet doesn't have to be derailed. Salad - A plate packed with dark, leafy greens, vegetables and even fruit can be very nutritious. Avoid salads featuring heavy dressing and cheese, which easily adds on extra calories and fat. Fish - Baked or grilled fish with lemon is an ideal choice but a fried fish platter can quickly top 2,000 calories. Also steer clear of fish with butter or cream sauces. Smoothies - A blend of low-fat yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit that you prepare yourself in a blender can be a healthy way to start your day. Smoothies found in the mall food court are a quick way to tack on calories due to the added sugar - aside from the sugars that occur naturally in fruit - the use of full-fat milk and commonly-found super sizes. Wraps - Depending on the type of sauce and amount of cheese used, these wraps can top upwards of 1,000 calories. For a healthy wrap, stick with one containing lean meats, plenty of veggies, small amounts of cheese and no mayo or creamy sauces. Coffee drinks - A regular cup of coffee with no "add-ins" has zero calories and fat. However, many flavored coffee drinks contain more calories than a large burger due to the cream and flavored syrups added to them. Aim for skim milk, ask for sugar-free syrups and withhold the whipped cream for a lighter pick-me-up. Muffins - Many muffins found in bakeries and cafes are equivalent to a piece of cake in fat and calories. Think of these muffins as oversized cupcakes and avoid indulging. Fried veggies - How do you make vegetables unhealthy? Be it sweet potatoes or broccoli, this growing, trendy menu option of frying veggies is a "don't." Multi-grain breads/buns - "Multi-grain" can often be misinterpreted as being whole-grain. Multi-grained breads contain a variety of grains but they are often refined, stripped of protein, nutrients and antioxidants. Breads that are 100% whole-grain are higher in nutrients and fiber and are a more well-balanced choice. Chicken - A grilled chicken breast is a great option until condiments like cheese, mayo and bacon are added. Top your sandwich with lettuce, onion, tomato and other veggies, plus a low-calorie sauce or mustard for added flavor. Salad bar - Just because a food item is included on the salad bar doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy. Avoid creamy, macaroni-and-pea-type salads, and watch the amount of shredded cheese you add. To build a healthy salad, stick to a variety of veggies and lean protein, like meats or hard-boiled eggs, and use light dressing or oil and vinegar. Visitors are invited to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, visit tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.
********** Published: April 14, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 52