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Tips to Choose Healthy Entrees at the Restaurant

A business trip often means dining out at a restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, depending on your destination, there may not be very many healthy options. Not long ago, we provided some tips on how to pick healthy appetizers from the restaurant menu…now we are going to give you the scoop on how to select a healthy dinner. 

Remember restaurant portion sizes, especially on entrees can be much larger than you really need or that you would have at home. A couple of ways to create a healthy dinner at a restaurant is to order a couple of appetizers or an appetizer and a couple of healthy sides. Or, you could order a large salad with some grilled chicken. Or, if you are eating with a colleague on your business trip, you may even consider splitting an entree with them. Regardless, if you do order an entree when you dine out, follow these guidelines to ensure you have a healthy dinner:

  1. Avoid Breaded or Fried Dishes: It is good to avoid breaded (E.g., Chicken Francese, Chicken Parmigiana, Eggplant Parmigiana) or fried (E.g., Fried Shrimp, Fried Chicken) dishes. These are high in fat and calories, and can leave you feeling extremely full and sluggish. This in turn can make it difficult to fall asleep and be productive on the business trip the next day. A healthy dinner, more often than not, will be grilled, baked or poached. Very lightly sauteed can be okay too, but often, a restaurant will saute something on the heavier side.
  2. Steer Clear of Stuffed Dishes: Stuffed dishes (E.g., Chicken Cordon Bleu, Stuffed Lobster, Stuffed Eggplant) are often stuffed with cheese, ground meat and/or bread crumbs, making these dishes high in fat and calories, once again contributing to a restless night’s sleep on the business trip. Make sure you read all of the ingredients listed on the menu carefully.
  3. Select Sauces Smartly: Be knowledgeable about the sauces that are used on dishes. Sauces such as Hollandaise, Bearnaise or any others that are made with mayo, whole eggs, cream, sour cream and butter are filled with fat and extra calories. Always choose those that are broth, oil, or wine based.
  4. A Healthy Dinner of Pasta: When you work hard and want to feel good, pasta can be a great comfort food on the business trip. For it to make a healthy dinner, however, see if the restaurant uses whole grain pastas (which are higher in fiber and protein) and select a sauce that is either tomato or broth based, such as marinara, puttanesca, or clam sauce.  Avoid sauces made with cream (alfredo), cheese (pesto and a la vodka), ground meats (bolognese) or butter, as they are laden with saturated fat and are high in calories. Also, pick pasta dishes that come with lean protein (such as chicken or fish) and some vegetables to make the dish well-balanced.
  5. Know Your Meats: If you aren’t vegetarian, you may want a beef, poultry or fish entree. Protein is an important part of a well-balanced, satisfying and healthy dinner. Know, however, which cuts are the leanest to keep your saturated fat intake as low as possible. And, stay away from processed meats, such as ground meat, sausage or hot dogs, and ordering whole cuts of lean meats, poultry or fish:
  • Beef:A business trip often gives people reason to indulge in a beef entree. Make sure you pick those made from the leanest cuts of beef (loin or round cuts). Here is a list from leanest to fattiest meat cuts found on a typical restaurant menu:
    • Strip loin (Club steak, NY Strip or Kansas City Strip)
    • Flank
    • Sirloin
    • Tenderloin (beef medallions or Filet Mignon)
    • Rib-eye
    • T-Bone
  • Veal: Like beef, veal is best when it is a loin or round cut. Avoid veal cutlets or breast meat.
  • Bison and Other Game Meats: If a restaurant serves Bison, I recommend you try it. Bison and other game meat make a very healthy dinner as they are the leanest in both total fat and saturated fat of all meats. Bison is even leaner than chicken. Further, because Bison is not farm-raised, you don’t have to be concerned with growth hormones or antibiotics that most farm-raised cows are subjected to. This holds true for any game type meats (deer, elk, duck, etc.).
  • Pork: The leanest cuts of pork are from the leg or loin (ham or pork chops). Make sure to avoid any of the fattier cuts, such as pork belly or bacon. Also, avoid sausage or any other processed types of meat or pork.
  • Lamb: Again, the shank half of the leg is leanest.
  • Fish and Shellfish: If your business trip takes you to a coastal area, enjoy some local seafood. Fish and shellfish are always a good option by themselves, but again, always be mindful of the sauces they use.

Do you look for a healthy dinner at the restaurant on your business trip?

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