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3. The Nation of Fast Food

Fast-food restaurants are everywhere. Whether you are single or married, and certainly if you have kids, fast food is convenient and usually inexpensive. I don’t recommend you frequent these restaurants often. They are havens for overly processed food and double doses of excess fat. However, to be realistic, I know a drive-through is probably in your future. Just try to limit the number of times you eat at them. Be sure to balance fast-food meals with other foods lower in fat and calories throughout the day.

To keep your diet in line, stay away from double burgers, double cheese, or double anything. Skip the bacon, large fries, and super-sized beverages. They can offer large-sized problems. Stick with regular or even child-sized portions.

Look for baked or broiled chicken sandwiches, even vegetarian burgers. Add lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles on a whole-grain bun, without mayonnaise. Try a sub sandwich once in a while. Sliced turkey or roast beef with shredded lettuce and tomatoes are good choices.

Limit any food that may be oily or creamy, or salads like tuna or chicken full of mayonnaise. These may sound healthy, but the extra oil and mayonnaise added to them makes them very high in fat.

Keep baked potatoes plain. When you add toppings, your potato can become laden with a lot of extra fat and calories. Top with fresh vegetables and maybe some lower-fat cheese.

Salads can be a good choice but not so good if you include higher-fat selections like cheese, croutons, and higher-fat dressings. Opt for many vegetables and top with a lower-fat dressing. Also beware of taco salads. These can be full of fat and calories. Fried taco shells, guacamole, sour cream, and refried beans can do wonders to adding up unnecessary calories and fat.

Always order your sauce on the side. It’s best to add it yourself. Lemon juice, lower-fat salad dressings, and mustard offer better choices than higher-fat sauces and dressings. If you are going out for pizza, opt for the thin crust with vegetables, and, if you’re daring, ask for lower-fat cheese. Pizza can be loaded with fat if it has stuffed crust, double cheese, sausage, pepperoni, or other high-fat meats.

Live

  YOUR Life

Fast food in the traditional sense is not your best choice. Many of the foods offered are higher in fat, calories, and sodium. These meals are notorious for being lower in fiber and vitamins A and C. If you order fast food, at least make smart selections.

Choose water, 100 percent fruit juice, or diet soft drinks over regular soft drinks, especially large-sized ones. Twelve ounces of a regular soft drink alone contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. How about those 30-ounce beverages, filled with 25 teaspoons of sugar, that everyone is drinking? Wow!

Be careful with desserts, especially pies, cookies, and brownies. Choose an occasional small, low-fat frozen yogurt cone. These are tasty and not too fattening either.

4. Healthy Ordering—Made Easy

I’m all for diversity. I love it in our culture and in our foods. America truly is a melting pot with a lot of different flavors in our stew. We have a wonderful variety of ethnic eateries. There is even much experimenting at trendy restaurants where dishes are tastefully prepared with more than one ethnic flavor. The buzzword for this form of cooking is fusion. With all these culinary delights tempting our palate, let me share some helpful tips that can cut calories across the board-er!

WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW CAN MAKE YOU FAT

Adding butter, margarine, sour cream, creamed spinach, and extra cheese to baked potatoes can increase calories by as much as 200 to 500 calories per serving.

American Food Flare

American grills and family-style restaurants are available to consumers in many different price ranges. These restaurants typically cater to families who opt for a variety of food choices and selections. Healthier options include baked or grilled entrées, broth-based soups, and fruit platters. Veggies are always a plus. Avoid the cheese bread in favor of whole-grain bread.

Love Lasagna?

Italian meals can range from inexpensive to costly, from healthy choices to heavy, high-fat meals. Don’t get thrown off by words like parmigiano, lasagna, alfredo, calamari, and cannoli. They may be Italian signatures, but the guidelines I’ve given you for a healthy diet still apply. Always ask how a dish is prepared before you order to be sure it is a smart choice. Beware of the extra oil and fat that are often used on appetizers and on pasta dishes. Many Italian restaurants now serve oil to pour on fresh bread. Use sparingly.

The large portions served at many Italian restaurants make them a perfect place to practice sharing. Healthier sauce options include primavera (not cream sauce), lemon juice, piccata (lemon-wine sauce), marinara (or tomato-based) sauce, red or white wine sauce, and light mushroom sauce. Artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic spices are healthy and yummy. Dessert can be guilt-free with a refreshing Italian ice.

Asian Food Feast

Cyndi’s Secrets

When you’re sitting at the table, looking down on a half-eaten plate, ask yourself this question: Do you want leftovers to go to waste or to your waist? You decide. It’s totally in your control—so share and take home a doggy bag.

Whether it’s Chinese, Japanese, or Thai, Asian restaurants are very popular. These foods are often considered healthier because of all the vegetables used in the cooking. This is where the unsuspecting consumer can be misled. Many of the entrées are extremely high in fat even if they come with veggies. For example, sweet-and-sour foods, tempuras, and fried entrées can kill a good diet. Don’t worry! You still can satisfy your Asian food craving. Choose yummy steamed chicken, seafood, and vegetables. Vegetarians can feast on tofu (bean curd). Substitute chicken for high fat duck. Ask the server to hold the peanuts and crispy noodles and to reduce the oil. Find a restaurant that does not use MSG.

Deli Dilemma?

Delis and sub sandwich shops are being advertised as healthier options to fast-food restaurants. Once again, buyer beware! Some foods here can fit that bill, but others do not. Portion sizes are often large, both in the size of the bun and the amount of meat piled on top. One good thing is that many sandwiches can be made to order. You can request healthier options including whole-grain breads, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mustard, and lots of vegetables. Choose sliced turkey, chicken, or ham. Be sure to leave off or at least limit the mayonnaise. Skip the chips. Have the server cut the sandwich in half and save for later. I have been known to order the kid pack. Free toy is optional!

Munching on Chips—Mexican

Mexican foods are delicious and flavorful. Ah, the spices and the salsa. I can hear the mariachis and see the margarita madness. Unfortunately, though, that tequila and high-fat sour cream are not good for your diet. You just have to be careful with your selections, particularly in fast-food Mexican-style restaurants. Salsa actually is a healthy option and so are fajitas, corn tortillas, burritos, and enchiladas. Just don’t load your entrées up with heavy sauces, creams, or high-fat cheese. Eat your salad without the taco shell. For me, it’s too tempting to eat the whole order of chips that are standard with most Mexican entrées so I have the server skip those. Nowadays, there are a slew of health conscious Mexican restaurants cropping up that serve fresh ingredients with no preservatives, lard, or MSG. Patronize these establishments. Olé!

Pizza, Pizza!

Most everybody wants a pizza on occasion. You can find almost any kind from the old classic thin crust with cheese to thick crust pizza stuffed with everything imaginable. Be careful with your pizza selections. Thin crust is the healthier option. Load up the top with green and red peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, spinach, and any vegetable you can think of. Choose chicken or turkey sausage over high-fat Italian sausage or pepperoni. If you top it with cheese, request low fat. Start with a salad to fill up on greens.

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