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?
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.