Chef’s Tips for Healthy Dinning

This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NYC. Famous...

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It is inevitable that at some point you are going to eat in a restaurant, but what are you going to have.   I want to share with you some Chef trade secrets that will help you navigate menu’s at your favorite restaurants without eating a ton of extra calories and wasting all the hard work you have put in at the gym.

When you think of having something healthy at a restaurant, the first thing most people think of is a salad. And thanks to the T.V. series Seinfeld, the “big salad” is usually the salad of choice.  But if you do your research, salads are not always the best option.  A lot of places load up the salads with cheese, croutons and heavy dressings and that equals calories you are not counting on.

Menu’s today are filled with lots of descriptive terms that make the food sound amazing.  But what does it all mean for you?  Lets take some of the more popular terms and break it down:

Pan seared-This means fried in a pan at a high heat, and depending on what the item is, sometimes it is finished in the oven.  Anything fried in a pan is fried in oil.  For example, Pan seared oysters.

Pan roasted-This refers to an item fried in a pan at a high heat to sear the outside, but is then finished in the oven.  For example, Pan roasted monkfish.

Blackened-This is also fried in oil in a pan at a high heat, such as blackened chicken.

Braised-This is fried first in a pan with oil, then finished in a liquid either on the stove top or in the oven.  Lamb shanks or short ribs are often prepared this way.

Roasting-This is a dry heat method of cooking, and usually refers to cooking items in an oven.  Such as roasted vegetables, or slow roasted prime rib.

Poached-This is done on the stove top, and an item is cooked slowly in a liquid; such as a poached egg.

Grilled-This is a term most people know already.  Grilled means cooked on a grill or bbq.

If you see any of these terms used to describe your food, you want to choose ones that are poached (and not the lobster that is poached in butter), grilled or roasted.  Everything else, as much as they are tasty, will add too many calories to your meal.

Other items you want to avoid are the calorie dense sauces that come with your meals.  This may include hollandaise, béarnaise, demi glace, pan jus, cream sauces, rose sauces, anything refered to as a dressing.  Vinaigrette on the other hand is a better term to watch for.  This is usually an oil and vinegar based condiment and it goes really well on most types of protein, salads, and even on roasted potatoes.

When dinning out, don’t be afraid to let your server know you are wanting your food prepared a certain way.  They know the menu better than you, so they may be able to offer healthy suggestions to you as well.   You are a paying customer and most places will do what they can to make you happy.  After all, a happy customer is a return customer.

A good strategy I recommend for you is if you are going to eat out, check the menu first on-line to see if there are some healthier options for you.  Most restaurants these days are offering healthy conscious choices for their customers.  You can even call ahead and speak to a manager to see if they offer options for people who are looking for lower calorie meals.  Healthy, low-calorie foods do not have to be tasteless and boring and  when given enough notice, most chefs are able to come up with something truly delicious.

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About Lisa

Lisa is a Certified Personal Trainer who is passionate about fitness and living an active lifestyle. She has a strong background in nutrition, having been a Chef for almost 15 years and applies this knowledge to helping her clients achieve their goals.
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One Response to Chef’s Tips for Healthy Dinning

  1. Colline says:

    Thanks for explaining the terms for me. My daily cooking does not incorporate all of those adjectives.

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