1. Surf for restaurants.
Before leaving home, check out your hotel’s website. Often there will be an “Area Guide” or “Area Information” that you can click on, and it will list several restaurants near the hotel with links that take you directly to them. You can often peruse the restaurants’ full menus and see if healthy items are available.
Another option: Sites like Zagat.com, HealthyDiningFinder.com, idine.com, and MenuPages.com list restaurants in many cities that serve healthy meals. There are also several good apps for your phone that target healthy eateries, such as Healthy Out.
2. Tap into the Pritikin community for healthy vacation ideas.
If you’re a member of My Pritikin, the Pritikin Program’s online membership, you can tap into a worldwide community of Pritikin people as well as faculty at the Pritikin Longevity Center for restaurant advice. Many members may live in the area you’re visiting and have first-hand experience about great restaurant choices. Click here to become a member.
3. Let the concierge be the bad guy.
Whenever making travel reservations, Pritikin alum Ron Gerhart of Churchville, Virginia, calls the hotel concierge and asks him or her to select restaurants with accommodating chefs.
Then he asks the concierge to call the chefs and say, “I have a client coming to your restaurant who’s on a special diet – no salt, no oil or butter, no sugar, no cheese – but plenty of fresh whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, seafood, lean poultry, and whole grains like whole-wheat pasta. Can you take good care of him?”
That way, says Ron, the restaurant knows ahead of time. There are no surprises, and “they do a great job because they always want to please the concierge.”
No time to call the concierge? No problem. Use these basic guidelines . . .
- Start each meal with a salad or vegetables. Use the “sides” section of the menu to find those starter veggies rather than beginning your meal with selections from the appetizer section. Bottom Line: Use the whole menu to find those veggies!
- Request no added oils, butter, salt, and/or sugar to any dish. These are the biggest culprits in any restaurant meal, so be on the lookout.
- Remember to ASK about preparation methods. Listed below are typical key words used to describe menu items. Keep these buzzwords in mind when ordering, and use them as a guide to search for healthier options.
High-Calorie-Dense, High-Fat Items: STEER AWAY from words like “fried, crispy, sauteed, breaded, creamy/creamed, au gratin, buttery, Alfredo sauce, cheese or meat sauce.”
Lower-Calorie-Dense, Lower-Fat Items: LOOK FOR words like “steamed, broiled, charbroiled, grilled, poached, roasted, stir-fried, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, Marsala sauce.”
Request that stir-fried or sautéed items be steamed or prepared with broth or wine.
4. Let the chef get creative.
Rather than walking in with razor-sharp guidelines (“I want grilled salmon and steamed asparagus”), Ron Gerhart likes to give chefs plenty of latitude (“I’d like some fish, a variety of vegetables, a salad, and a fruit dessert. Now, go for it.”)
That way, the chef is able to pick and choose from his or her bounty of the day – the fresh, flavorful vegetables, herbs, and fruit that have just arrived from the local farmers’ market, and the fish freshly flown in from the coast.
“It becomes a creative challenge for the chefs,” says frequent traveler Ron. “They have free rein, and they have fun with it. Best of all, the dinner I get is wonderful. People at tables surrounding us look over and say, ‘That looks fantastic! What did you order?'”
5. Nosh on the concourse.
Thanks to more and more food offerings at U.S. airport terminals, it’s getting easier to grab a healthy bite before boarding – or take your food with you on the plane.
At many terminals, you can pick up fat-free, non-sugar-sweetened yogurt and whole fruit like apples, oranges, and bananas, even at airport newsstands.
Sandwich and wrap shops often offer a variety of fresh produce, like baby spinach, summer’s tomatoes, and freshly sliced cucumbers. They also allow you to pick and choose exactly what you want. Many terminals even have salad bars.
Many Mexican-style eateries on concourses are also full of healthy choices like salsa and black beans.
At Starbucks, you can now get oatmeal with nonfat milk or soymilk, plus whole fruit like bananas as well as plastic containers of cut-up fresh fruit.
And what a difference that oatmeal can make to your waistline! One serving, which is 140 calories, is a far better choice than the muffin madness at Starbucks. A Zucchini Walnut Muffin (which sounds healthy) tallies up a whopping 490 calories. An Apple Bran Muffin is 350 calories. So even if you add the little packet of nuts that you can request with your oatmeal, which brings your oatmeal up to 240 calories, you’re still better off than noshing away on those muffins. And the oatmeal does a really nice job of keeping you full and satisfied all morning long.
6. Dodge the sausages…
Breakfast buffets at your hotel and elsewhere can wreck havoc on not only your waistline but your heart. “In the six hours after a single high-fat meal, your risk of heart attack or stroke goes up 600%,” states Dr. Jay Kenney, PhD, RD, Nutrition Research Specialist at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
Sidestep the sausages and other artery-damaging meats. Head straight for the omelet bar. Ask for an egg-white or Egg Beaters omelet and look for healthy fillers, like mushrooms and other veggies.
While your omelet’s cooking, pile up another plate with lots of fresh fruit. Add some treats, like raspberries, to a big bowl of hot oatmeal. Top with nonfat milk or soymilk.
Bravo! You’ve just put together a big satisfying breakfast that benefits both heart and waistline.
7. Take in the local farmers’ markets (and take out farm-fresh goodies)
Many cities and towns in America, Europe, and other countries host colorful, entertaining outdoor farmers’ markets. What a great way to pick up delicious farm-fresh produce and take in the culture and people of the community you’re in.
Go early, maybe as part of your morning exercise. Farmers’ markets are fabulous because you can touch the produce, smell it, and sample delicacies you may not be able to get back home.
Best of all, you’ll have healthy snacks in your daypack for any time later in the day when hunger hits.
8. “More veggies, please.”
When ordering at restaurants, ask for three times the normal serving of veggies that accompanies your entrée, and offer to pay extra. “I’ve never been charged, and I’ve never been disappointed. I get full, not fat,” says leading cardiologist Robert Vogel, MD, diet consultant to the National Institutes of Health and co-author of the book The Pritikin Edge: 10 Essential Ingredients For a Long and Delicious Life.
In addition to extra vegetables on the side, you can also “super size” veggie-style to improve each dish you order. On your pasta primavera, for example, ask for extra veggies. On sandwiches, order vegetable toppings. Always remember that any time you add veggies, you’re improving your meal.
9. Find a steakhouse.
Yes, you heard right! Steakhouses are often a great places to eat because, first and foremost, they often have big salad bars full of all sorts of fresh, naturally-low-in-calorie vegetables and fruit.
Steakhouses also tend to be very good at preparing meat, including healthier choices like seafood and chicken, just the way people want them. Rarely will you get surprised by greasy batters or high-fat, high-salt sauces. At steakhouses, too, you’ll often find healthful, low-calorie sides like steamed vegetables and baked potatoes.
At any restaurant you go to, work from the entire menu to create a Pritikin meal. Regard the menu as a list of ingredients available in the kitchen. The more items on a menu, the more options you have to choose from. Select, for example, the seafood from one dish and ask for the baked potatoes and steamed veggies from another. Intrigued by a tropical salsa that belongs to another entree? Request the salsa as a topping for your seafood.
If you see two or three appetizers that look both healthful and appealing, order all of them instead of a main entrée. Avoid restaurants that make a strict policy of “no substitutions.”
10. Mitigate the damage. Keep exercising.
A few caloric indulgences while traveling may not end up as post-vacation pudge if you keep exercising while on vacation. Among healthy vacation ideas, fitness is right up there with food. Search out hotels that have fitness facilities or guest passes to nearby gyms. See the sights in walking shoes instead of taxis and trolleys. Turn airline terminals into walking tracks.
And find restaurants that are within walking distance from your hotel. Why take a taxi when you can enjoy a leisurely walk in the cool evening air to and from the restaurant? “And every step does count. With just 15 minutes of walking, you can burn 100 calories and more,” says Scott Danberg, MS, Exercise Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
“Plus, walking after a meal is a wonderful way to keep blood sugar levels down,” advises Robert Bauer, MD, diabetic specialist at Pritikin.