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Tips for a Healthy Room Service Dinner

Room ServiceLast week I fell victim to the blizzard of the northeast and got stuck in Chicago for a night on my way back from Seattle. Coming off a fantastic visit with my publisher (AmazonEncore) for Get Real and Stop Dieting!, I didn’t let the bad weather get me down. Instead, I checked-in, went to my room, and ordered room service to satiate my rather overwhelming appetite.

Unfortunately, what should have been a healthy, low-fat, and well-balanced late night snack turned into an unhealthy, high-fat, and sodium laden catastrophe. The salad was drenched in dressing, the asparagus was drowning in butter, and my sandwich was deli meat, not fresh turkey. All three things I ordered were labeled “healthy options” on the room service menu. Lesson learned: just because the room service menu has “healthy choices,” don’t assume that they are. Here are some health tips to make your room service dinner as healthy as possible:

  1. Bread: Bread serves a purpose at the dinner table in a restaurant…it keeps you busy while you wait for your food. With room service, however, this isn’t the case. The bread comes when the meal comes. Most hotels don’t serve whole grain bread with dinner, they usually serve french bread or Italian bread…neither of which are especially healthy.  Ask the room service attendant to forget the bread and butter on your order to eliminate the empty calories.
  2. Dressings, Sauces and Condiments: Whenever you order a salad, always ask for the dressing on the side. When you eat your salad, dip your fork into the dressing and then take a forkful of salad. This will help keep your fat intake lower than if the salad came with the dressing already on it. In general, this rule applies to any sauce, condiment or dressing, on any item you order. Ask for veggies, sides, entrees, and any other items “dry.”
  3. Sandwiches: In my case, my sandwich was made with whole grain bread. Although this was a great start, the meat was deli meat and they slathered the bread with mayonnaise. Definitely ensure that the bread on any sandwich is whole grain or whole wheat. Or, even better, ask for your sandwich without the bread. When in doubt, ask if the meat is fresh, or if it is deli or processed. You want fresh meat whenever possible. This will ensure lower sodium content and more likely than not, lower fat content, preservatives and artificial ingredients as well. That way you have control over how much you eat.
  4. Entrees: If you order a main entree, always choose meats or fish that are grilled, poached or baked (and dry). Avoid anything stuffed or sauteed.
  5. Included Sides: Often, entrees come with starchy sides, like pasta, potatoes or french fries. In order to cut out excess calories, ask to substitute any starch with either a vegetable or a side salad.
  6. Veggies: Just because a side dish is a vegetable, doesn’t mean it is healthy. Depending on the way the vegetable is prepared, it can be extremely unhealthy and fattening, counteracting all the vitamins and minerals you could be getting. Ask for your sides to be grilled or steamed when possible. And, if the vegetable comes with a sauce or dressing, again, ask for it on the side. Typical vegetable sides that you want to avoid include creamed vegetables, sauteed veggies, and stuffed vegetables.
  7. Dessert: It is always tempting to order dessert. First off, when you order everything at once, you are starving and don’t realize that you very well may be full at the end of your meal. Secondly, the room service attendant asks you if you want anything else consistently until you say no. If you really want dessert, ask the room service attendant if they have any fresh berries, or sorbet. These options will satiate your sweet tooth without putting you over the edge with calories.

Room service is a great way to relax and get in some alone time in your hotel room. Don’t let it, however, sabotage your attempts to be healthy on the road. Do you have any healthy tips for hotel room service?

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