By: Thea Boatswain ’18, University Health Center Peer Educator
Around College Park, especially Route 1, there are plenty of delicious places to chow down on a good meal. From traditional burgers and fries, to pizza and pasta, to other international cuisines. These establishments feed the students of The University of Maryland on a daily basis.
As a University Health Center (UHC) Nutrition Coach I often hear my clients say they like to eat out but consider it unhealthy. Exclamations such as, “I love Nando’s but it’s not healthy” or “I went to Noodles and Co. but I probably shouldn’t be eating pasta.” As part of the Sensible Nutrition Advocacy Program (SNAPs) we like to take the “all foods can fit” approach. This means, in moderation, meals at restaurants can most definitely fit into a healthy lifestyle.
To make the best out of your dining experience, I’ve compiled a list of 5 tips to help beat menu phobia.
- Look at the menu before you go
This is great so you have a no-pressure environment to take a good look at the menu and decide what you want. This will also afford you time to think about good substitutions you would like, if any. Most restaurants have their menus online so you can take a look at them. Places like Nando’s, Aroy Thai, Bobby’s Burger Palace, Noodles & Company and Cornerstone Grill, just to name a few, are all close to campus and have online menus.
2. Ask the waiter about substitutions
Your waiter/waitress should know great substitutions for the dishes served. Ask them! If they don’t know, an extra side of the seasonal vegetables are always a good option.
3. Look for items with health icons
Most sit down restaurants have adopted their own healthy meal option icons. Look for these icons and see if anything looks tasty! Beware of things advertised as low carb, though. Just because its low carb doesn’t mean low calorie.
4. Know various menu terms
Items that are named Au gratin, scalloped, buttered, creamed, crispy and stuffed are more than likely going to contain a heavy cream and/or butter and have higher saturated fat content.
Au jus, pickled, or cured can mean high sodium. If you’re trying to lower your sodium level these items might be on your ‘no’ list.
Steamed, roasted, broiled, grilled and poached are great to look for in a menu item.
5. Ask to box half of your entrée before you eat
This is great idea if you’re trying to control your portion sizes. It has been documented that Americans eat more than twice the recommended portion size than they should. If you can automatically put away half of your meal you are more likely to avoid over eating and picking at your food.
Have fun and enjoy your eating out experience. With a little planning and strategizing you can eat at your favorite restaurants and still maintain a healthy diet. Bon Appetite!