Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't Flip Out about Eating Out, Flip Your Plate!

The Plate Flip: Make vegetables the Star. Small portions of meat with mostly vegetables on the plate with one glass of wine = a meal that pleases both taste and health.
It’s easy to understand why nutrition advice today includes cautionary tales of restaurant menu items that deliver more than a day’s calorie limit with overblown portion sizes and whopping amounts of sugar, salt and fat. But, registered dietitian Connie Guttersen doesn’t think that means declaring a ban on dining out, “Eating is out is part of the daily American lifestyle. Strategies for success are essential to help diners who need to lose or maintain weight loss and feel good about eating in restaurants.” She says access to the facts certainly helps diners decide what to order. For instance, nutrition information on menu items at P.F. Chang’s reveals wide swings in calorie costs. Choose the Orange Peel Beef and you’re looking at 1400 calories on the plate versus the Cantonese Shrimp with only 350 calories a serving.

Guttersen knows a lot about the good, the bad and shockingly unhealthy choices offered in restaurants today. As a nutrition instructor at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in Napa Valley she’s on the front lines of gathering the food facts on menu items and sharing them with the next generation of chefs in training and adding to the skill sets of experienced chefs. Nutrition coursework is an important focus in culinary schools today as chefs gain the food knowledge and cooking techniques needed to prepare healthier menus that are just as appealing and sell just as well as restaurants’ more decadent choices. Guttersen, who spoke at the Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives conference held recently, says there are plenty of examples that illustrate good nutrition is making its way into food service including trends to offer small plates, seasonal produce, and flavors added to recipes with spices, herbs, fruit salsas and vinegars instead of butter, cream and cheese. So, what’s her best advice for diners to navigate a menu in search of breakfast, lunch or dinner that will support a healthy lifestyle? “Try not to micromanage by fretting about the exact calorie count of a dish. Instead, be mindful and visualize a healthy plate with at least 75% plant based foods. Eating mostly vegetables, fruit and grains should become second nature. It’s what we call the ‘plate flip’. Meat shouldn’t be the star of the plate.”
5 Strategies to Success in Healthful Dining Out

Watch the Three B’s
- Before you even order your entrée you can easily consume more than 600 calories with Bread, Butter and Beverage. Two pieces of bread (400 calories), 1 teaspoon or pat of butter (100 calories) and a soft drink or alcoholic beverage (200 calories).

Look for Healthy Preparations- Instead of deep fried or bathed in butter or cheese sauce look for menu descriptions that indicate leaner cooking techniques such as: Plank Roasted, Oven Roasted, Brick Roasted, Grilled, Seared, Stir Fry, En Papillote, and Poached in wine or broth.

Feast on Vegetables- Choose lots of different colors and varieties as the star of the plate, prioritize seasonal, local and organic. Guttersen says, “Build smarter salads with dark greens, added nuts and seeds and small amounts of flavorful cheeses.” Salad dressings can add flavor with healthy oils such as olive or canola.

Go For Whole Grains- Discover a world of healthy grains including quinoa, wild rice, faro, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, amaranth, wheat berries and oats.

Flip Your Plate- Protein portion whether beef, chicken, fish or tofu only needs to be four ounces. Include plant sources for protein: nuts, seeds, soy ( tofu), and beans. Consider the Pastry Flip for dessert emphasizing fruit and small amount of pastry or granola topping.

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