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Eat Healthy When Dining Out

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With all of the advances in cardiac care, amazing things can be done to repair and heal your heart, but the best medicine is always preventive medicine.

A heart healthy lifestyle that includes exercising, eating right and not smoking (all of those things your mom probably told you to do) will reduce your risk of heart disease and help you feel your best.

With the new year, many of my patients are starting or recommitting to a heart healthy diet — like a Mediterranean diet, or the low-salt, high-nutrient DASH diet. For most, it is relatively easy to incorporate healthy choices in meals at home, but then at a restaurant, all bets are off.

If you do like to go out to eat or sometimes have to grab food on the go, consider these tips for enjoying heart healthy meals.

Do your research: Go online or ask around to discover restaurants in your area that serve healthy options. Some restaurants specialize in healthier fare, while others have nutritious, lower-fat choices alongside more standard menu items. Look for menus or meals that feature a lot of fresh vegetables.

Be prepared: You will be able to make healthy choices if you don’t show up overly hungry. If it has been hours since you ate last, consider eating a handful of nuts or a cup of yogurt before you go so you don’t feel inclined to overeat.

Strategize: Having a game plan can help you avoid unhealthy choices. Drink a glass of water beforehand to help you feel a little fuller from the get go, and while you’re at it, enjoy water with your meal rather than soda. A glass of wine or beer with dinner is fine for most people, but limit alcohol and avoid sugary sweet mixers. Skip the bread basket and choose menu items that are steamed, grilled, roasted or poached, rather than breaded or fried to reduce fat. And you don’t want fries with that. Choose the side salad or broth-based soup instead.

Pay attention: Take your time and enjoy your meal. Notice the flavors and aromas and chew thoroughly. This mindfulness will help you make the most of your dining experience, while helping you avoid overeating. Restaurants often serve oversize portions, so do not aim to clean your plate. Keep “portion control” in mind and take home the leftovers to enjoy later.

Treat yourself: It may seem counterintuitive, but from time to time you can let yourself be a little indulgent, as long as you consider these choices in light of your overall diet. Studies have shown, allowing yourself a little flexibility tends to help you make healthier choices.

Find resources to keep your heart healthy at samhealth.org/HeartHealthInfo.

Information provided by Jeremy Warner, DO, Samaritan Heart Center