You don’t have to be a wizard to know Dorothy wasn’t referring to food when she recited the legendary cinematic line: There’s no place like home… there’s no place like home…
But chew on this: Although many restaurants now offer healthy options, research shows that people who dine out more frequently tend to weigh more than those who choose to stay home and cook.
Women who eat foods prepared outside the home more than five times per week consume about 290 more calories on average each day than women who eat these foods less often.
Portion size is frequently cited as one of the biggest challenges facing those who dine out. “Single portions” are often gargantuan – and they sometimes double or triple the calories, fat and sodium you or I should eat in one sitting.
We don’t want to scare you away from your favorite restaurant. It certainly it is possible to dine out healthfully.
For example, you can log on to Healthy Dining Finder and find a menu of nearby restaurants and dietitian-recommended choices, such as grilled fish or chicken, or pasta that’s not drowning in cream and cheese.
But, you can keep your weight loss resolutions to eat more healthfully by preparing your meals at home more frequently.
Even if you’re a novice in the kitchen, just a few easy-to-follow tips will keep your favorite foods healthy and satisfying.
- Trim the Fat: All fat is not equal, but reducing calories from fat is the easiest way to maintain a healthy diet. Bake, broil, grill, poach or sauté foods instead of deep-frying or cooking them in fat. I love to use low-sodium vegetable broth to sauté instead of oil. This trick works great for all quick stir-fry, poaching or even baking. Instead of greasy fried chicken or fish, make it crunchy and tasty by dipping in low-fat buttermilk, rolling in crushed whole-grain cereal (Grape Nuts is a great choice) and baking in an oven set at 375F–400F till crispy and crunchy outside, and nicely done inside. You’ll save more than 155 calories per serving.
- Substitute: In baking, replace half the oil with applesauce or fruit puree for an equally moist muffin or cake. Cut out a third of the sugar called for in your recipe and add naturally-sweet grated carrots.
- Shop Lean: Buy 95% lean ground beef, or replace a third of your ground beef with ground turkey breast. Plain “ground turkey” typically contains turkey skin, which is very high in fat and saturated fat. Enjoy turkey or chicken breast or thighs, without the skin. Trim all visible fat before cooking, and enjoy “loin” cuts over “chops.”
- Lower Dairy Fat, Boost Flavor: Since whole milk dairy has a full gram of saturated fat per ounce, it makes sense to go lower. Low fat or 1% has three grams of fat per serving, or less – and there are additional options:
- Milk, sour cream, yogurt and cheese: choose low or nonfat
- Buttermilk (low fat) substitutes for whole milk in your favorite recipes.
- Nonfat evaporated milk has a “creamy” consistency and works great instead of full-fat cream or condensed (sweetened) milk in sauces, pies and ice cream. Try nonfat evaporated milk instead of half-and-half in your tea and coffee.
- Scramble for Eggs: One whole egg has only 80 calories and is a treasure-trove of protein, vitamins and minerals. Eggs are delicious and versatile. You can enjoy them poached or scrambled for breakfast, in a low-fat egg salad (made with yogurt instead of mayo) for lunch; and in a frittata for dinner. Reduce the calories even more by substituting two eggs whites for one whole egg.
- Cut the Cheese: Cheese is typically high in fat and saturated fat. By choosing lower-fat varieties and shrinking the amount, you’ll still enjoy the flavor without blowing your diet. Instead of topping your omelet or pizza with an inch-thick layer of full-fat mozzarella cheese, substitute low-fat ricotta and a half-cup of part-skim grated mozzarella.
- Dress for Success: Instead of pouring on hundreds of calories from bottled dressings (not to mention all the artificial ingredients and sodium in most of those goops) make your own. Stock up on a variety of vinegars: balsamic, wine, cider, etc. Then, whisk in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a little fresh lemon juice and some dried herbs.
- Viva la Veggies: Most Americans eat double the amount of “required” protein, but skimp on diet-smart vegetables and fruit. Grill some “meaty” portabella mushrooms; make a big pot of vegetables stew with lentils and potatoes; and grill some peaches for dessert.
- Stick to Basics: Nonstick pans make baking, grilling and sautéing a healthy breeze. Use a little cooking spray or – for full flavor – sauté in wine, broth or 100% juice.
Susan Burke March is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who, as chief nutritionist for eDiets, promotes the dietary health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.