10 small restaurant substitutions you can make for a healthier meal

Eating well is crucial when you're diabetic. These 10 easy substitutions can help you achieve your goal of eating well, even when you're out to eat at a restaurant.

10 small restaurant substitutions you can make for a healthier meal

1. Hold the bread

Ask the waiter to not bring bread. You're likely to get plenty of starch in your meal (from rice, potatoes and starchy vegetables), so save your carbohydrates for later.

2. Order a starter salad

  • A small garden salad contains at least two servings of vegetables and about five grams of fibre.

Because of that fibre, salads are surprisingly filling.  Just stick to veggies in the salad, rather than fatty meats, cheeses and nuts.

3. Dress your own salad

A tasty dressing can make a salad. Chefs know this, too, and can be heavy-handed when tossing the dressing in the salad.

  • A typical restaurant Caesar salad is tossed with 70 grams (2 1⁄2 ounces) of dressing, which adds about 360 calories and 38 grams of fat to otherwise healthy and low-cal Romaine lettuce.
  • Ordering the same dressing on the side and topping your salad with just 15 grams (a tablespoon) would add 77 calories and eight grams of fat to your greens.

4. Select clear soup

  • Ordering soup before the meal is another proven strategy to take the edge off your hunger and help you eat less of the main meal.

Avoid cheesy or creamy soups, such as French onion, baked potato and broccoli-cheese.

5. Be different

Think about having an appetizer and a salad instead of an entrée.

  • Many restaurants' entrées are at least twice as big as a standard serving.
  • If you don't think you have the willpower to order a main course and not eat the whole thing, order an appetizer-size dish instead.
  • Healthy options include shrimp cocktail, hummus and pita bread, and grilled chicken skewers (with sauce on the side). Ask the server to bring you one of these as your entrée and dig into a salad while everyone else eats their deep-fried appetizers.

6. Switch fries for broccoli

Want to order the turkey burger platter but don't want to be tempted by the French fries?

  • Ask to substitute it with the restaurant's vegetable of the day.
  • Cooked broccoli works well — 125 grams (a half cup) contains no fat and just 27 calories, which is less than one-tenth the calories in a small order of fries!
  • Switching from fries to broccoli saves you three grams of saturated fat and infuses your meal with about 80 per cent of your daily allowance of vitamin C.

7. Choose grilled, baked or broiled

  • Dishes that are grilled, broiled or baked will almost always be lower in fat than those that are fried or sautéed.

An order of fried chicken tenders can contain as many as 23 grams of saturated fat, while a piece of grilled chicken or fish may only have two or three grams.

8. Ask for steamed veggies

Like sautéed entrées, sautéed veggies are often coated with more butter or oil than you need.

9. Order “blackened” chicken or fish

"Blackened" means that the meat has been coated in Cajun seasoning and thrown into a red-hot cast-iron skillet.

  • Cajun seasoning blends cayenne pepper, black pepper and onion and garlic powders, so it delivers a little kick.
  • It's a great way to get big flavour without sauces, oils or other added calories.

10. Nix butter for lobster

A 170-gram (six-ounce) lobster tail contains only a few grams of fat, five grams of carbs and 200 calories. The real danger lies in the dish of melted butter that comes along with it.

  • The simple act of squeezing lemon juice on your lobster rather than drowning it in 60 grams (four tablespoons) of melted butter will save you 400 calories and 28 grams of saturated fat.
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