What not to order at a restaurant

Avoid anything fried while eating out. Here are some other tips for dining out.

If you’re on a diet or at least conscious about what you’re eating, dining out can be a Catch-22. On one hand, not having to cook and eating delicious food prepared especially for you is downright awesome. On the other hand, you don’t always know what you’re eating, even when you think you do, and there’s no way to count calories, fat and other nutritional value if you didn’t prepare the food yourself. But dining out, whether it’s for a friend’s birthday, a date or just because you’re tired of cooking, is way too fun to avoid completely. Here are some tips about which foods you shouldn’t eat when dining out, and why:

Don’t eat these foods

Iceberg lettuce – Ordering a wedge salad made with iceberg lettuce is a bad idea on several levels. For one, iceberg lettuce is very inexpensive, so your meal is marked up nearly 20 times. Also, it has little nutritional value – it’s made of 98 percent water – and, in fact, could harbor bacteria in the cracks and corners of the wedge.

Bread baskets – These are usually filled with bread made from bleached flour, which isn’t very healthy. Also, the breads might be reused at some restaurants.

Bar snacks – Just don’t eat these. They’re free and tasty, but think of how many unwashed hands may have been in them!

Tepid water – Unless the water served to you is ice cold, ask for a new glass. Warm water is ripe for bacteria.

Buffets – Buffets cause you to over eat! Also, they aren’t always very sanitary. There’s no telling who just sneezed on that chicken breast you put on your plate.

Overly sauced items – Sauces are usually filled with sodium and fat, and they often are used to hide sub-par ingredients or those that are a bit old, such as low-quality, fatty meats.

Seafood at a non-seafood restaurant – You’ll get the freshest fish, clams and shrimp at places that specialize in seafood because they place more frequent orders than do non-seafood restaurants. Additionally, they’re less likely to have frozen seafood.

Bone-in meats – These are often difficult to cook because they don’t sit flat in the pan. Pork chops and chicken are the most worrisome foods if they aren’t cooked thoroughly.

Anything with these words: deep-fried, pan-fried, saut​éed, battered, crispy, breaded, au gratin, b​éarnaise, hollandaise, Alfredo, creamy and cheesy. Items with these designations are often full of fat. Instead, opt for items that are broiled, steamed, poached, roasted, baked, grilled or blackened.

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