Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Maneuvering the Menu
New York City's ban on artificial trans fats in restaurants underscores the difficulty of eating heart healthy when eating out. It means not only looking for low-fat and low-calorie choices, but also cutting the artery-clogging trans fats. Nutrition coach Kendra Coppey offered these pointers on how to navigate a restaurant menu, with healthful eating in mind.

Her main tip: Ask whether the food is prepared with trans fats. The server may not know, and you may have to ask the manager or owner, but increasingly, restaurants are serving concerned customers. So they may not be surprised to be asked whether the food is prepared with the "bad stuff:" hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, which includes most vegetable oils, shortening, and margarines or similar spreads.

Course by course, Coppey says, there are red flags to look for:

When ordering a salad, cut out the croutons, which are made from bread and probably a lot of shortening. If they're a must, order them on the side. Choose olive oil with vinegar for dressing, or balsamic vinaigrette, which is more likely to be made with olive oil, a healthy fat.

In choosing a veggie, ask for it to be cooked in olive or canola oil, or even sauteed in a little butter. Rule of thumb: The more a food looks like its original form, the more likely it is to be lower in trans fats. For example, mashed potatoes are probably going to be higher in trans fats than a baked potato with butter, and with the latter you can control the amount of added fat.

Most meat courses are probably OK because they're eaten right away and don't require stabilizers; trans fats are often used for that purpose to prolong shelf life. But avoid fried meats (e.g., chicken-fried steak), and breaded meats; those bread crumbs are probably high in trans fats.

When the dessert cart rolls around, skip the pastries, cookies and cakes, which are probably made with shortening. Safer choices are fruit with fresh whipped cream, ice cream, and maybe even chocolate pudding or mousse.

As always, portion control is a must. I'm sure there are a lot of other good strategies out there for eating healthy in restaurants. What are yours?
We've been informed about the adverse health effects of trans fats for a few years now and its great that legislation is starting to recognize the value of implementing preventative measures to combat future illness in an attempt to curb the burden on the medical system. However, we've known about the dangers posed to us by smoking for many years now without any legislation as tough as the ban on trans fat. Perhaps the food industry is easier to push around than the tobacco one or perhaps the tobacco industry has too much influence in legislation where it ought not have influence.
This is nice to know. My husband and I are going to NY City to visit for wedding Anniversary. So now cans we say CNN saved us from eating to much trans fats? I've got enough bubbles on my butt. I don't need anymore fat. Keep up the good work CNN. Save us from cellulite.
I haven't eaten anything with Trans Fat in it in years (due to food allergies to corn, soy, nuts, and all oils). I am still obese.
This is hog wash. The government has no right to tell me what I can eat. I don't need a babysitter to show me how to feed. Bring on the Trans fat.
Perhaps the thought is to save us from ourselves but I think that a rational
adult has the right to choose for themselves.
Please, why are we taking the fun out of good old tail gate food? If Emeril can cook with Pork fat to make a great scrambled eggs with melted cheese and let us wash it down down a few Bud Lites, what is the big deal. I am exercising my mouth at the ball game that must count for a few burnt off calories.
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