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Order up a serving of good health

“I’ll have the …”

Here are some heart-healthy choices from a variety of menus.

  • Chinese: steamed dumplings; hot-and-sour soup; stir-fried seafood, chicken or bean curd; steamed whole fish; moo goo gai pan
  • French: bouillabaisse, coq au vin, steamed mussels, fish en papillote
  • Greek: tzatziki, Greek salad, plaki, shish kebab
  • Italian: minestrone, escarole soup, pasta primivera, chicken or fish in wine
  • Mexican: salsa, black-bean soup, tostados or fajitas, tamales, rice and beans
  • Middle Eastern: stuffed grape leaves, couscous, hot bulgur or tabouli, imam bayildi
  • Fast food: salad bar (without dressings), plain hamburger or turkey burger, grilled chicken sandwich, baked potato, hotcakes or waffles without butter

Mmmm. Dinner tonight at your favorite restaurant. Dancing in your head are visions of creamy pasta sauces, 2-inch-thick sirloin steaks, Caesar salads and strawberry cheesecake. If you welcome eating out as an occasion to dig into high-calorie entrees and rich desserts, you’ve got plenty of company. A truly occasional splurge won’t cause any lasting heart risks. But if like most Americans you enjoy one out of three meals away from home, you may be headed for trouble—heart trouble.

Here are a dozen suggestions for dining out—with your heart in mind.

  1. Meeting friends at a restaurant? Don’t get there too early. It’ll be tough to pass up a drink or snack while you wait.
  2. Snack on fruit, soda crackers or clear soup before going out. After all, a growling stomach is an invitation to overindulge.
  3. Say “no” to alcoholic beverages. Not only do they add empty calories, they also lower your resistance to foods that are off limits.
  4. Enjoy clear soup, fruit or vegetable juice as an appetizer.
  5. Consider skipping an entree in favor of a couple of appetizers. Or split an entree with a friend.
  6. Move the breadbasket to the far end of the table.
  7. Ask for lemon juice or olive oil and vinegar instead of full-fat salad dressings.
  8. Put the brakes on your chewing speed by ordering foods that need work: Try unboned fish, artichokes and anything eaten with chopsticks.
  9. If you can’t resist dessert, go for fruit sorbets. Or order a piece of “death by chocolate” cake, but split it.
  10. Speak up. Ask your waiter if high-fat ingredients can be omitted.
  11. Don’t order the complete dinner, which usually has too many courses. Instead, make your selections à la carte.
  12. Ask for a doggie bag. It’s a good way to enjoy your entire meal without going overboard on calories.

© 2014 Dowden Health Media