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Dining Out: Make Smarter Choices at Restaurants

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

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If you race motocross chances are you travel a lot and with that comes restaurant food. One of the quickest ways to destroy the work of a good training program is with a poor diet. If you are used to moms healthy cooking or if your wife likes to keep the family healthy by preparing nutritious meals, then a trip to a restaurant may have you feeling sluggish and tired. Most restaurant food is high in fat, sodium, and calories to make the food taste as good as possible. When you are just too busy to cook or on the road traveling sometimes take-out is the only way to get dinner on the table. But you don't want to sacrifice your training -- or your waistline -- in the process. With the help of Dietician, Kim Wathen we go over the do's and don'ts of dining out.

Mexican
Unfortunately, the average Mexican food joint in the U.S. cannot boast about the health benefits of its meals. Americans have super-sized and super-fattened nearly every dish that we consider Mexican today; in fact, many Mexican dishes were created in the U.S., so they don't even exist south of the border. American-style Mexican food is usually high in fat, sodium and calories, and it uses less of the fresh, nutrient-packed ingredients that traditional Mexican food includes.

What to Skip

  • Sour Cream: Let's be honest, it's pretty tasteless. And it has over three times the fat content of vanilla ice cream! If you must have something creamy, try a little guacamole for a healthier alternative. (It's still full of fat, but at least it's monounsaturated.)
  • Chorizo (spicy pork sausage seasoned with paprika): 11 grams of fat per ounce, four of them saturated and 351 mg of Sodium.
  • Tortilla Chips: These little suckers are hard to avoid when they put them on the table as soon as you sit down. 12 Chips (1 oz. contain 140 calories with 7 grams of total fat, 19 grams of Carbs, and 120 mg of sodium.
  • Taco Bell Nachos Bell Grande: 770 calories, 44 grams of fat (9 sat. and 3 trans.), 77 grams of Carbs., and a whopping 1280 mg of sodium.
  • Chipotle's Beef Burrito: 1,026 calories and 46 grams of fat.
  • Baja Fresh Steak quesadilla: 1,450 calories and 86 grams of fat.
  • Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill Carne Asada Taco with rice and beans: 710 calories and 22 grams of fat.
What to Look For
  • Grilled Fish: Say hola to this low-fat, heart-healthy choice.
  • Salsa: Not only is it fat-free, but one-half cup of it also counts as a full serving of veggies.
  • Grilled Chicken Fajitas: Just be careful with the sides that add.
  • Look for these ingredients: Avocado, Beans, Chilies, Corn, and Tomatoes
  • Traditional Mexican food
  • Ceviche: 140 calories and 5 grams of fat.
  • Raw fish: usually shrimp and scallops -- marinated in lime juice and flavored with spices, such as chili, salt, cilantro, garlic, and peppercorn.
  • Chile Rellenos: 237 calories and 8 grams of fat.
  • Large Anaheim chilies stuffed with spicy meat and/or cheese.
  • Poc Chuc: 160 to 230 calories and 8 grams of fat.
  • Grilled pork steak, cooked with tomatoes, onions and spices.
  • Huachinango a la Veracruzana: 144 to 270 calories and 2 to 9 grams of fat (depending on size of fish fillets).
  • Pacific red snapper sauteed with mushrooms, jalapenos, chilies, onions, tomatoes, and garlic.

Traditional Mexican food is high in nutrients, packed with vitamins and is generally low in fat. Sadly, Americans weeded out the "good stuff" long ago and replaced it with oil, fat and calories -- which is what you'll find in most Mexican restaurants in the United States. Sure, American-style Mexican food tastes good, but if you want to experience the benefits of true Mexican cooking, avoid the fast food and Tex Mex joints, and try something authentic.

Italian
Pasta and pizza may be the first foods that come to mind when you think of Italian cuisine, but the menus of Italian restaurants contain a wide range of items, from rich soups, antipasto, and meat, to cheeses, cakes and ice cream. Here are some suggestions to help you make selections that fit into a healthy diet, whether you eat at a fine Italian restaurant or call out for a delivery from a local pizza parlor.

What to Skip

  • Fried calamari: Would you eat a heaping plate of donuts right before dinner? Deep-six the deep-fried. 300 calories per serving with 13 grams of fat.
  • Alfredo Sauce: Instant food coma alert. One serving can contain over 30 grams of fat!
  • Garlic Bread: Take the empty calories of white bread and add a little garlic and a lot of butter and what do you get? A little fatter than you were before you ordered.
  • Steer clear of antipasto salads, which contain marinated vegetables and many high-fat items: olives, hard-boiled eggs, and sausages.
  • Avoid dishes that have been breaded and fried, such as eggplant or veal parmigiana.
  • Steer clear of entrees prepared with a lot of cheese, which can be very high in fat. Ask that your entree be prepared without oil.

What to Look For

  • Pasta can be a good low-fat meal, depending on the sauce. Red clam or meatless marinara sauces are good.
  • Marinara Sauce: Packed with flavor and the antioxidant lycopene -- and virtually fat-free.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Add a lot of flavor at just over a gram of fat per tablespoon.
  • Prosciutto or Carpaccio: These super-thin sliced meats (ham and raw beef, respectively) are leaner than you think.
  • Pizza. Even when you have to make a choice as unhealthy as pizza, there are still a few things you can do to make it better for you.
    • What to Skip
    • Pepperoni - 15 slices (1 oz) contains 12 grams of fat (5 grams saturated). That's almost 1 gram of fat per slice!
    • Extra cheese - High in saturated fat and sodium. If you want to have something extra on your pizza, how about extra veggies or extra red pepper flakes?
    • Deep dish - Are you having dinner or going into hibernation?

What to Look For

  • Cheese-free pizza - Delicious on its own, or add your own parmesan at home for a lower-fat alternative to traditional pies.
  • Thin crust - Fewer calories, fewer empty carbs.
  • Fresh vegetable toppings.
  • Extra napkins: Use them to pat the pizza dry, absorbing excess oil (read: fat) from the cheese.
Sushi
Have you ever wondered how many calories are in sushi? Thankfully sushi is not a particularly fattening food. While rice contains a fair amount of carbohydrates, sushi can be eaten without it (sashimi) and in moderation. Even a standard sushi item can be a healthful treat without breaking the calorie bank. The basic ingredients make sushi healthy and light, but not when you take American eating habits into account. Fortunately, most sushi restaurants don't serve very large portions. The bad news is that we are a nation of "super-sizers," so we compensate by over-ordering. To make matters worse, the trend in sushi is away from traditional, healthier rolls and dishes to more "interesting" choices that meet the demand for innovative treats. This generally means adding more good-tasting, bad-for-you ingredients at the expense of healthful ones. Leave it to us Americans to take a relatively healthy cuisine and turn it into a high-calorie, high-fat food!

What to Skip

  • Tempura: Japanese for deep-fried.
  • Steer clear of fried or battered foods, such as dumplings and spider rolls.
  • Eel: high in both calories and fat.
  • Yellowfin and Bluefin Tuna: Be careful with these fish as they are starting to contain higher and higher amounts of Mercury.
  • Spicy Tuna Roll: This roll is packed with mayo, which is packed with fat. 11 grams of fat and 450 calories per serving.

What to Look For

  • Broiled, grilled or steamed items. Typically, soup and sashimi are low in calories.
  • Cucumber Roll: At nearly 0 grams of fat and 130 calories, now you're talking.
  • Misdo soup is rich with antioxidants and protective fatty acids, and a healthy dose of Vitamin Fé. It also boasts protein and Vitamin B, and a nice selection of minerals to help boost the strength of your immune system as well as being low in fat and calories.
  • Fats: Most seafood is naturally low in fat, and what fat is found in them is generally unsaturated fat rich in Omega-3. Since sushi is often served raw, no fat is introduced in its preparation.
  • Proteins: Fish, tofu, seafood, egg, and many other sushi fillings contain high levels of protein.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: These are found in many of the vegetables used for sushi.
Chinese
Chinese dishes, such as steamed vegetables, fish and rice are very healthy, nutritionally balanced and low in fat and calories. But some Chinese food can actually be high in fat, as well as calories. Here are some suggestions on how to select Chinese meals that will fit into a healthy, low-fat diet.

What to Skip

  • Sweet and Sour Pork: Keep your fork away from this pork. At PF Chang's, their dish contains 46 grams of fat (14 grams saturated) and 1100 calories.
  • Fried Rice: Steamed rice contains 2.5 grams of fat while fried rice contains 14 grams of fat per 8 oz serving. Why fry?
  • Avoid crispy chow mein noodles, which are high in fat.

What to Look For

  • Good low-fat Chinese entrees include: chicken, beef, pork or shrimp chow mein, chop suey, moo goo gai pan, and stir-fried meat with vegetables.
  • Steamed Brown Rice: Fat-free and a sodium-free fiber boost.
  • Chopsticks: They'll make you eat more slowly so you get the chance to feel full.
  • Fortune cookies: A sweet fat-free treat for only 30 calories.
Indian
Indian food is one of my favorite foods. Hot and spicy curries, a wide choice of vegetarian dishes, delicious chutneys, and breads that range from thin and crispy to fat and filled; all these make Indian food a treat. Eating in an Indian restaurant, though, can be a portion control disaster as many dishes are based on lots of rice, sauces are often creamy and sweet, ghee (clarified butter) is used for frying, and portions can be large. Once I am done, I wish I could go back in time and avoid the buffet and go a la carte sharing my meal with my wife as she always asks. Visions of the treadmill and rowing machine flash before me and keep me up at night as I know I will be paying for the meal in more ways than one.

What to Skip

  • Mango Chutney: This unassuming Indian mainstay packs 60 calories per tablespoon. Chutney is high in sugar (14 grams per table spoon).
  • Chicken Korma: You knew the creamy goodness couldn’t be light on your hips. 500 calories per serving and 35 grams of fat.
  • Dishes cooked with rice (look for the word "biryani" on the menu), such as Lamb Biryani
  • Dishes with a creamy tomato sauce (look for the word "masala" on the menu), such as Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Sides such as poppadums (crisp bread dried and fried in hot fat) and samosas (deep-fried vegetable/meat stuffed pastry)

What to Look For

  • Tandoori Chicken: The quintessential Indian dish is only 260 calories a serving. Filling and fantastic.
  • Dal (also spelled dhal, dahl, or daal): Lentil dishes are high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants and low in calories.
  • Dishes made with green vegetables, usually spinach (look for the word "saag" on the menu), such as Chicken Saag (sauteed spiced chicken and spinach).
  • Dishes marinated in spices and roasted in a tandoori oven (look for the word "tikka" on the menu), such as Fish Tikka.
  • Roti (unleavened bread baked in clay oven).
  • Raita (cucumber, yogurt, and herb accompaniment).
That should cover most of the major restaurants that you go to. If you follow these tips you will you will undoubtedly improve your diet while dining at restaurants without sacrificing the pleasure of a good meal. Another tip to avoid crashing your diet is to avoid fast food AT ALL COST. Enjoy your meal!

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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