Healthy eating can still be maintained while enjoying an evening out with friends. Here is your Pritikin-approved guide for restaurant dining.
You're well aware that those days of grabbing a greasy burger and fries at your favorite fast food joint are long gone, but what about more upscale restaurant dining? Believe it or not, many of the dishes served at your favorite sit-down eateries could be even worse for you than that drive-through chicken sandwich. Here's how to keep it healthy:
The Truth About Restaurant Dining
The New York Times once reported that most restaurant entrees are packed with two to three times the calorie count of a standard, balanced meal. These menu items are often heavily processed and likely filled with one too many teaspoons of salt and sugar. And that's not even counting potential appetizers, drinks or dessert.
Between the portion sizes and the rich creams and butter used to add flavor, the calories in a dinner out with friends can quickly sneak up on you. The good news? You don't have to avoid socializing and eating out just to stay healthy. By following a few important tips, there's a way to Pritikin-ize the menu almost anywhere you choose to dine. When it comes down to it, it's all about having a healthy eating plan.
Tips From the Expert
Pritikin's very own Chef Anthony Stewart has a long history working his magic in culinary spaces around the globe. As both a chef and a teacher, he provides his expertise on the best ways to dine out while keeping your health in check. Rule No. 1 in his book is to tell the wait staff exactly what you want.
"Instead of telling them what you don't want, tell them what you do want," he said. "I encourage people to develop a recipe for each kind of food they like."
"Rule No. 1 is to tell the restaurant staff what you do want."
For example, start by asking what type of fish the restaurant is serving that day. If the answer is salmon, you would then be able to request your go-to fish recipe: A piece of salmon with chopped garlic, paprika and lemon, wrapped in foil and baked in the oven, he explained.
Secondly, it's important to give yourself some time when dining out, as Pritikin-izing a menu will take a bit of extra effort. Consider glancing over the menu ahead of the reservation so you know what your options will be. Chef Anthony's third rule of thumb is not to let them add sugar, salt or anything else to your meal. Ask for all additions on the side so that you can control how much you are putting on your food when it gets to the table. Lime, lemon and garlic are the best options for seasonings, he noted. Lastly, it's best to stick to your favorites.
"Choose one or two restaurants that are willing to entertain your simple requests and if you go back, they'll get accustomed to what you need," advised Chef Anthony. "It's one of the best and easiest ways of managing dining out."
The Biggest Menu Item to Avoid
When asked about the No. 1 menu item that should always be avoided, Chef Anthony was quick to respond: salad dressings. Loaded with fat, sodium and even sugar, restaurant salad dressings are best avoided altogether. You can have the healthiest dish on the planet in front of you, but as soon as you add a calorie-heavy salad dressing, those unhealthy numbers really start to add up. What you add to your salads, entrees and meats can make a huge difference and shouldn't be ignored, he explained.
"Don't ever assume that because the food is tasty, it is healthy. In general, healthy food will take some getting used to," explained Chef Anthony.
For a healthier, chef-approved salad dressing, consider one of the four light and tasty Pritikin dressings. Wondering how you can transport these to the restaurant when you dine out with all of your friends this weekend?
"We have the pouches available in four dressings that guests can stick in their purse when you go out to dine. You'll be walking around with a healthy purse!" laughed Chef Anthony.
Each of the Pritikin salad dressings now come in convenient, portable pouches making healthy, conscious eating easier than ever. Packed with rich, robust flavors and just a fraction of the calories, fat and sodium of their restaurant counterparts, these dressings can help you to Pritikin-ize your meal no matter where you're dining.
Guest Ray Luce, who has been Pritikin-izing restaurant menus for more than three years now, is proof that it can be done. Prior to his stay at Pritikin Longevity Center in June of 2013, Ray said he was doing what all Americans do: Consuming lots of salt, fat, carbohydrates and red meat. It took just two weeks at the center for him to understand what was wrong with that picture.
Though he acknowledged it took some getting used to, he has since mastered the art of turning unhealthy menu entrees into perfectly healthy items. Using numerous Pritikin menus for reference, as well as the tools and knowledge obtained through the nutrition workshops and cooking classes held at Pritikin, Ray has dining out down to a science.
"You can take almost any menu and Pritikin-ize it," he explained. "I've got it figured out, I know what I should and shouldn't eat."
Check out the the full story on how Ray successfully returned to the real world, "A day in the life: Transitioning from Pritikin back home," here.