Dinner

Some people eat in restaurants because the cupboards are empty or they prefer not to cook. Others enjoy dining in restaurants with their friends. And some end up in restaurants because of business meetings. Whatever the situation, every active person who relies on restaurants for a balanced sports diet faces the challenge of finding healthful meals among all the rich temptations. Unfortunately, many people select whatever's fast and happens to tempt their taste buds at the moment, particularly when they are tired, hungry, stressed, anxious, or lonely. Here are some suggestions for what to eat when you are eating out.

Low-Fat and Healthful Choices

The most important first step to selecting healthful restaurant meals is to patronize the restaurants that offer carbohydrate-rich sports foods; don't go to a steak house if you're looking for muscle fuel. Study the menu before you sit down to see if the restaurant offers pasta, baked potatoes, bread, juices, and other carbohydrate-based foods. Try to avoid the places that have only fried items. Also, check to see if they allow special requests. If the menu clearly states "no substitutions," you might be in the wrong place.

When you're in an appropriate restaurant, choose your foods wisely. In general, you should request foods that are baked, broiled, roasted, or steamed—anything but fried. Low-fat poultry and fish items tend to be better choices than items naturally high in fat, such as prime rib, cheese, sausage, and duck. Keep the following foods in mind as you peruse a menu:

  • Appetizers. Tomato juice, fruit juice, shrimp cocktail, fruit cocktail, melon, and crackers make great starters for your meal.
  • Breads. Unbuttered rolls and breads are great—particularly if they are whole grain; ask for extras! If the standard fare is buttered (as in garlic bread), request some plain bread also, and enjoy the buttery bread in moderation.
  • Soups. Broth-based soups (such as vegetable, chicken and rice, and Chinese soups) and hearty minestrone, split pea, navy bean, and lentil soups can be good sources of carbohydrate and are more healthful than creamy chowders and bisques. They are also a source of fluids.
  • Salads. Enjoy the veggies, but limit the chunks of cheese, bacon bits, parmesan, olives, and other high-fat toppings. Always request that the dressing be served on the side so you can control how much you use. Be extra generous with chickpeas and toasted croutons.
  • Seafood and poultry. Request chicken or fish that's baked, roasted, steamed, stir-fried, or broiled. Because many chefs add a lot of butter when broiling foods such as fish, you might want to request that your entree be broiled dry (cooked without this extra fat). If the entree is sauteed, request that the chef saute it with very little butter or oil and add no extra fat before serving.
  • Beef. Many restaurants pride themselves on serving huge slabs of beef or 12-ounce (340 g) steaks. If you order beef, plan to cut this double portion in half and take the rest home for tomorrow's dinner, share it with a companion (who has ordered accordingly), or simply leave it. Trim all the visible fat, and request that any gravy or sauce be served on the side so that you can use it sparingly, if at all. Your goal is to eat meat as the accompaniment to the meal, not as the focus. Your muscles will perform better if two-thirds of your plate is covered with carbohydrate-based potatoes, vegetables, and bread.
  • Potatoes. Order extra to make this the mainstay of your dinner. Baked potatoes are a great source of carbohydrate, unless the chef loads them up with butter or sour cream. Request that these toppings be served on the side so you can control how much you eat. Better yet, trade those fat calories for more carbohydrate. Add moisture by mashing the potato with some milk (special request). This may sound a bit messy, but it's a delicious, low-fat way to enjoy what might otherwise be a dry potato.
  • Pasta. Enjoy a pile! Pick pasta served with tomato sauces (carbohydrate) rather than the high-fat cheese, oil, or cream sauces. Also be cautious of cheese-filled lasagna, tortellini, and manicotti. They can be high-fat choices.
  • Rice. In a Chinese restaurant, you'll be better off filling up on an extra bowl of plain steamed rice, another good source of carbohydrate, than on egg rolls or other fried appetizers.
  • Vegetables. Request plain, unbuttered vegetables with any special sauces (hollandaise, lemon butter) served on the side.
  • Chinese food. Steamed rice with stir-fry combinations such as chicken with veggies or beef with broccoli are the best choices. Ask for extra vegetables. You can also request that the food be cooked with less oil. Be cautious at buffets; the chefs tend to add extra oil so the food is less sticky.
  • Dessert. Sherbet, low-fat frozen yogurt, angel food cake, a fruit cup, or berries are among the best choices for your sports diet. Fresh fruit is often available, even if it isn't listed on the menu. If you can't resist a decadent dessert, just be sure to enjoy it after you have eaten plenty of carbohydrate. That is, don't eat a carbohydrate-poor dinner to save room for a high-fat dessert.

When you are faced with a meal that's all wrong for you, try to make the best of a tough situation. For example, you can scoop the sour cream off the potato, drain the dressing from the salad, scrape off the gravy, or remove the fried batter from the chicken. You can also top off a carbohydrate-poor meal with your own high-carbohydrate after-dinner snacks, such as fig bars, a bagel, pretzels, animal crackers, a banana, graham crackers, dried pineapple, raisins, and juice boxes. Take these emergency foods along with you. However, also try to make special requests. Remember, you are the boss when it comes to restaurant eating. The restaurant's job is to serve you the low-fat foods that enhance your health and your performance. Bon appetit!

Fast-Food Choices

Eating at a quick-service restaurant is like visiting Fat City. You have an easy opportunity to select a dietary disaster and choose items that are high in saturated fat and calories but low in carbohydrate, fiber, fruits, and vegetables. Although the occasional burger and fries meal is of little health concern, fast foods that are a common part of your diet need to be balanced with wholesome, lower-fat choices. Fortunately for our health, most of today's quick-service food centers offer healthful, low-fat carbohydrate options. Table 4.2 provides the calories and fat grams found in commonly consumed fast-food items.

Travelers, in particular, need to learn how to fuel themselves wisely, even if on a budget. If you are a 150-pound (68 kg) athlete who needs 2,700 to 3,000 calories a day, the cheapest way to stave off hunger is to fill up on fatty foods—such as tempting value meals. Bad idea. These high-fat meals not only clog the arteries and bulk up the waistline but also fail to adequately fuel the muscles. A better bet is to carry carbohydrate-rich foods with you. Some easy-to-tote choices include bagels, crackers, fig bars, breakfast cereals, and dried fruits.

The following menu ideas can help you healthfully navigate the world of fast foods.

  • Any way you look at them, burgers and French fries have high fat content. You'll be better off going to an eatery that offers more than just burgers. Find a menu that offers grilled chicken or roast-beef sandwiches accompanied by soups (brothy or beany ones). Other options include roast or grilled chicken meals with mashed potatoes, rice, vegetables, and salad bars complete with kidney beans, chickpeas, and bread.
  • If you order a burger, request a second roll or extra bread. Squish the grease into the first roll, then replace it with the fat-free roll. Boost carbohydrate intake with beverages such as juice, smoothies, or low-fat shakes. Pack supplemental carbohydrate, such as dried fruit or fig bars.
  • Shy away from value meals. You'll be better off having a burger and milk than having your money go "to waist" by choosing the meal deal.
  • Beware of chicken sandwiches topped with a special mayonnaise-based sauce, which can make the sandwich as fatty as a friedchicken sandwich. Request that the server hold the sauce, or wipe off the mayo yourself.
  • Meals with chicken that is roasted or grilled are generally preferable to fried-chicken meals. If you order fried chicken, get the larger pieces, remove all the skin, and eat just the meat. Order extra rolls, cornbread with honey or jam, corn on the cob, and other vegetables for more carbohydrate.
Table 4.2 Fast-Food Calories and Fat

Menu item

Cal

Fat

Menu item

Cal

Fat

McDonald's (www.mcdonalds.com)

Hamburger

250

9

McDonaldland cookies

250

8

Quarter Pounder

410

19

Fruit'n'Yogurt Parfait w/granola

160

2

Quarter Pounder with Cheese

510

26

Egg McMuffin

300

12

Big Mac

540

29

Sausage McMuffin with Egg

450

27

Grilled Chicken

420

10

Egg, bacon, cheese McGriddle

460

21

Grilled Chicken Wrap

270

10

Biscuit

230

10

Chicken McNuggets (6)

250

15

Biscuit w/bacon, egg, cheese

440

25

Sauce, sweet'n'sour

50

0

Hash browns

140

8

Filet-o-Fish

380

18

Hotcakes w/2 margarine, syrup

600

17

Grilled chicken Caesar salad, plain

220

6

Hotcakes, plain

340

8

Low-fat dressing

50

2

Breakfast burrito, sausage

300

16

Caesar dressing (1 package)

190

18

Orange juice, 12 oz (360 ml)

140

0

Side salad, no dressing

20

0

Milk, 1%, 8 oz

100

2

French fries, small

250

13

Cola, 21 oz (630 ml)

210

0

French fries, medium

380

20

Shake, chocolate, 16 oz (480 ml)

580

14

French fries, large

570

30

McFlurry, M&M, 12 oz (360 ml)

620

20

Burger King (www.burgerking.com)

Whopper

670

39

Grilled chicken garden salad

240

9

Whopper, no mayo

510

22

Light Italian dressing, 2 oz (60 ml)

120

11

Whopper, double w/cheese, mayo

990

64

Chicken sandwich, grilled, no mayo

450

10

Whopper, triple with mayo

1130

82

Chicken Tenders (5 pieces)

210

12

BK Broiler Chicken

510

19

Fries, medium

360

20

BK Broiler Chicken, no mayo

390

8

Onion rings, small

150

7

Veggie Burger

420

16

Croissanwich w/sausage, egg, cheese

470

32

Domino's Pizza (www.dominos.com)

Classic cheese, 1/8 of 14 in. large

290

9

Deep dish, 1/8 of 14 in. large

320

12

Thin crust cheese, 1/8 of 14 in. large

180

9

Buffalo wings, hot (2)

210

14

Brooklyn style, 1/6 of 14 in. large

330

17

Cheesy Bread, 1 of 8 sticks

140

7

Pizza Hut (www.pizzahut.com)

Personal pan pizza, pepperoni

640

29

Fit'n'Delicious, 1 slice of 14 in.

230

6

Personal pan pizza, supreme

710

34

Hot wings

120

7

Kentucky Fried Chicken (www.kfc.com)

Original recipe breast, 5.5 oz (175 g)

360

21

Tender Roast sandwich, no sauce

300

5

Extra crispy breast, 6 oz (175 g)

440

27

Corn on the cob, 5.5 oz (14 cm)

150

3

Crispy strips (3)

350

19

Macaroni and cheese

180

8

Wendy's (www.wendys.com)

Chili, small

220

6

Baked potato, plain

270

0

Mandarin chicken salad (dry)

170

2

Baked potato w/sour cream

370

6

Taco Supreme salad

370

17

Fresh fruit bowl

130

0

Turkey Frescata sandwich

430

15

Frosty Jr., 6 oz (180 ml)

170

4

Taco Bell (www.tacobell.com)

Taco

170

10

Mexican pizza

550

31

Taco Supreme 88

260

16

Bean burrito

350

8

Menu item

Cal

Fat

Menu item

Cal

Fat

Taco Bell (continued)

Soft taco, grilled chicken

190

7

Taco salad

810

46

Gordita, chicken baja

340

18

Nachos Supreme

440

24

Gordita, beef

360

21

Refried beans

140

3

Au Bon Pain (www.aubonpain.com)

Soup

Croissant

Garden vegetable, 12 oz (360 ml)

80

2

Plain

260

15

Tomato Florentine, 12 oz (360 ml)

120

3

Chocolate

330

17

Vegetarian chili, 16 oz (480 ml)

350

4

Sweet cheese

340

19

Salad without dressing

Spinach and cheese

250

14

Garden, large

110

2

Ham and cheese

350

18

Chicken Caesar, 1 container

300

14

Cookies

Thai chicken salad

190

5

Chocolate chip

260

11

Fresh fruit and yogurt

170

2

Oatmeal raisin

230

8

Breakfast sandwiches

Muffins, bagels, Danishes

Egg on a bagel

400

4

Bagel, plain

290

1

Lox and wasabi on a bagel

490

11

Bagel, raisin

320

1

Sandwiches

Bran muffin

410

9

Classic tuna

550

27

Low-fat triple berry muffin

290

2

Turkey and Swiss, baguette

760

28

Blueberry muffin

510

19

Arizona chicken croissant

680

30

Pecan roll

520

28

Dunkin' Donuts (www.dunkindonuts.com)

Glazed donut, raised type

180

8

Chocolate chip muffin

630

26

Jelly filled donut

210

8

Bagel, plain

320

2

Powdered sugar donut, cake type

330

19

Bagel, multigrain

380

6

Glazed chocolate donut, cake type

350

19

Bagel sandwich (egg, cheese, bacon)

540

18

Munchkin, cake, cinnamon, 1

65

4

Coffee w/cream, sugar, 10 oz (300 ml)

120

6

Blueberry muffin, large

470

17

Coffee Coolatta w/cream, 16 oz (480 ml)

350

22

Blueberry muffin, reduced fat

400

5

Coffee Coolatta w/skim, 16 oz (480 ml)

170

0

Bran muffin

480

15

Chocolate chunk cookie

540

23

Cinnabon (www.cinnabon.com)

Cinnabon roll

730

24

Caramel Cinnabon

1,100

56

Subway (www.subway.com

Roasted turkey, 6 in. (15 cm)

280

5

Roast beef wrap

280

7

Tuna, 6 in. (15 cm)

530

31

Chicken Teriyaki wrap

360

7

Mrs. Fields (www.mrsfields.com)

Triple chocolate cookie

210

11

Double fudge brownie

360

20

White chunk madadamia cookie

230

12

Peanut butter nibbler (1)

60

3

Panera Bread (www.panerabread.com)

Bagel, whole grain

340

3

Crispani pizza, tomato and basil

320

13

Panini, portobello and mozzarella, 1/2

370

19

Salad, Asian sesame chicken

450

22

Panini, turkey and artichoke, 1/2

420

19

Honeydew green tea, 16 oz (480 ml)

350

15

Tuscan chicken sandwich, 1/2

370

15

Chai tea latte, 10 oz (300 ml)

190

4

Information from Web sites, August 2007.

Information from Web sites, August 2007.

  • Even though roasted chicken is preferable to fried, be aware that the roasted skin is still fatty. By removing the skin and wing from a KFC Rotisserie Gold quarter breast, you remove 13 grams of fat and 115 calories. Additionally, many of the accompaniments to chicken meals are laden with butter; however, any vegetable tends to be better than no vegetable. Ask if unbuttered, steamed vegetables are an option.
  • At a salad bar, be generous with the colorful vegetables and hearty breads, but be careful to choose light dressings. Also, note that a Caesar salad is not a dieter's delight. For example, Boston Market's chicken Caesar salad with dressing totals more than 800 calories. You'd have been better off eating a chicken breast (remove the skin and wing), corn bread, steamed vegetables, and whole-kernel corn for 225 fewer calories and 46 fewer grams of fat.
  • Resist the temptation to choose baked potatoes smothered with high-fat toppings. Your best bet is to order an additional plain potato and split the broccoli and cheese topping (14 g of fat) between the two. That way, you end up with a hearty 800-calorie, high-carbohydrate meal, with only 15 percent of the calories from fat. For additional protein, drink a glass of low-fat milk.
  • Order thick-crust pizza that has extra crust rather than extra cheese. More dough means more carbohydrate. A slice of Pizza Hut's pan pizza has 10 more grams of carbohydrate than a slice of their thin-crust pizza. Pile on vegetables (green peppers, mushrooms, onions), but shy away from the pepperoni, sausage, and ground beef. Don't be shy about using a napkin to blot the fat that cooks out of the cheese.
  • Seek out a deli that offers wholesome breads. Request a sandwich that emphasizes the bread rather than the filling. A large submarine roll (preferably whole wheat) provides far more carbohydrate than half a small pita. Hold the mayo, and add moistness with light salad dressings (if available), mustard, or ketchup. The lowest-fat fillings are turkey, ham, and lean roast beef.
  • Hearty bean soups accompanied by crackers, bread, or corn bread provide a satisfying carbohydrate-rich, low-fat meal. Chili, if not glistening with a layer of grease, can be a good choice. For example, a Wendy's large chili with eight crackers provides a satisfying 400 calories, and only 20 percent (9 g) are from fat.

You can eat a high-carbohydrate sports diet even if you are eating fast foods. You simply need to balance the fat with the carbohydrate. Here are some additional suggestions from Joanne "Dr. Jo" Lichten's Dining Lean: How to Eat Healthy When You're Not at Home (pages 41-47).

Breakfast Suggestions

  • Egg, egg white, or Egg Beaters omelet (nonstick spray) served with mixed fruit and rye toast with jam
  • Raisin Bran or Shredded Wheat plus low-fat milk, juice or fresh or canned fruit, and toast with butter on the side
  • Au Bon Pain Egg on a Bagel, Jack in the Box Breakfast Jack, or McDonald's Egg McMuffin
  • Whole-grain bagel with light cream cheese and a latte (low-fat milk)

Lunch Suggestions

  • Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich (hold the cheese), Carrot and Raisin Salad, and fruit cup
  • McDonald's Premium Grilled Chicken Classic (hold the cheese) and Apple Dippers with Low Fat Caramel Dip
  • Bowl of miso or egg drop soup and 10 pieces of sushi with soy sauce, horseradish, and ginger
  • Two slices of cheese or onion, pepper, mushroom, ham, and pineapple pizza
  • A 12-inch Subway Veggie Delite, Turkey Breast, Ham, Roast Beef, or Club
  • Grilled chicken salad (dressing on the side) and roll
  • Gardenburger on bun (mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, onion)
  • Boston Market quarter roasted white-meat chicken (without skin or wings), green beans, steamed vegetables, and new potatoes
  • KFC Tender Roast Chicken Sandwich (no sauce), corn on the cob (small), and BBQ baked beans
  • Wendy's plain baked potato topped with small chili

Dinner Suggestions

  • Grilled chicken, sirloin steak, pork tenderloin, or fish with baked potato (or rice), steamed vegetables (no butter), and a dinner roll
  • Applebee's Tortilla Chicken Melt
  • Boston Market quarter white-meat Original Rotisserie Chicken (no skin), mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans
  • Olive Garden Capellini Primavera or Pomodoro and a lightly buttered breadstick
  • Red Lobster Roasted Tilapia in a Bag, rice, vegetable, and rolls
  • Salad bar: vegetables, chickpeas, kidney beans, and light dressing, plus broth-based soup and cornbread
  • Chicken and vegetable stir-fry (prepared with very little oil) and steamed brown rice
  • Pasta with tomato sauce, red or white clam sauce, or Bolognese sauce, plus a salad (dressing on the side)
  • Mexican chicken fajita meat, tortillas, lettuce, and salsa, plus Mexican rice and bean soup

Reprinted, with permission, from Dining Lean: How to Eat Healthy When You're Not at Home (2007) by Joanne "Dr.

Jo" Lichten, PhD, RD. www.drjo.com.

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