Food: An exciting endeavor. Food is such a powerful part of our culture almost all of our important meetings involve one form of food or the other: Reunions, business meetings, going out, hanging out, treating someone, caring for someone, etc. Well, you get the idea. Although we are a culture that likes to invite people over to our homes, more often than not, we end up eating out. When that happens, we are faced with a whole new set of rules. For those of us trying to lose weight or may have a medical problem (diabetes, heart disease…), dining out may be more dangerous than enjoyable; maybe more stressful than relaxing; maybe more troublesome than it is worth. After all, eating at home,we control the ingredients and how we cook our meals. Eating at home means we can measure, we can pick and choose and we control our destiny (a bit dramatic but again, you get the picture). Dining out does not have to mean a change from who we are, what we can or cannot eat or putting our health at risk. The key though is knowing how to do that. Follow these simple rules and you should be okay. Plan ahead, consider the entire menu and choose wisely.
Preparation: Plan ahead: If you had a big lunch that day, make sure you order a light dinner. Another approach would be to cut back on calories during the day to save some room for the anticipated big meal while dining out. Sometimes, eating something at home to curb your hunger before you go does wonders. Try to never go to a restaurant really really hungry. Usually,that spells trouble because our appetite wins over and we end up not only over ordering, but over eating. Understand menu terms. Make sure you know what each menu item is and how it is prepared. Never be shy about asking about certain dishes you want to order. Ask what they are made of, how they are cooked and how much or what the portion is. Also, be sure you ask about preparing the food in a certain way for your sake. Some restaurants will add butter on steaks for taste. A simple «no thank you» and you have saved yourself the butter, its calories and its fat. Choose your restaurant wisely. If your menu or your medical problem necessitates sea food, then make sure you go there and enjoy it, properly and well cooked of course. Also,choose wisely from the restaurant. Going to a sea food restaurant for example does
not automatically mean you are going to eat in a healthy way. A fried fish can be very detrimental to you and your health. Perhaps the most important step in preparation before going anywhere is understanding your medical condition. Understanding your problem is key to knowing what affects it the most and what does not. When you have a firm grip of your situation, you know what to expect and you would not be surprised or caught off guard.
The saying in arabic is: Ask someone who has experienced the problem instead of asking the doctor. That is true for a reason.
Ordering:Try including foods from all the different food groups: meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Salads are key. Salads can provide you with a full meal. A salad with greens and nuts and proteins can give you all that you need. Salads usually provide you with fiber and necessary vitamins and minerals. They also tend to fill you up with fewer calories. Avoid fatty dressings. For sandwich toppings, go with low-fat options like lettuce, tomato and onion; use condiments like ketchup, mustard or relish; and low-fat or fatfree dressings. Almost anything on the menu can be made in a healthy way. Even though the restaurant may not have it prepared that way, you can still order it. Baked fish instead of fried. Baked potato instead of fried; sautéed vegetables without butter, and grilled meat without the extra fatty meat portions… Substitute. Ask for a side salad with low-fat dressing to replace fries in a combination meal. Many restaurants honor requests, so don't be afraid to be assertive, ask menu questions and make special requests to meet your nutritional needs. A few years ago, if you asked to take the rest of your food with you, people would look at you funny and restaurants in Lebanon were not equipped to do so. Now, things have changed. Do not be afraid to leave some food on your plate. Take it home with you and make another meal out of it. Remember, taking care of your health starts with you.
Eating: Eat slowly. Eat slower than slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry. If you are a fast eater, like so many of us are these days (who has time to eat?), you tend to be an over eater. Eating slower makes you fuller with fewer calories to boot; not to mention you are chewing your food better and making digestion much easier.
Eating out with kids:I have said this many times before and I will say it again: Kids develop their tastes and eating patterns very early in life. Make sure you help them develop healthy eating habits to make their lives easier as adults. Choose a restaurant that caters to children and has a healthy children's menu that includes smaller portion sizes and meals designed to provide adequate nutrition for them. Kids can have medical problems also. Be sure the menus offer a variety of possibilities for them. Instead of sodas or high fat drinks, ask for milk as a beverage and fruit for dessert. In general, healthy choices that apply to you apply to your kids. Be smart about it, be nutritiously smart. Most of all enjoy your outing. Bon appetite.