By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC
Ever been out to dinner with a dietitian? I must confess, sometimes it can be a lesson in best practices for becoming a high maintenance customer — reminiscent of the deli scene in the 1980s hit movie “When Harry Met Sally…” when the character Sally was very particular about her order for pie à la mode: “I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side. And I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla, if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of a can, then nothing.”
You’ve got to admit that Sally knew what she wanted and was very specific about the details.
I’m a registered dietitian and attempt to eat as healthfully as possible and share guidance on the topic in this column.
But while dining out during the American Dietetic Association’s annual conference in Denver, I was overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of my nutrition-minded colleagues as they maneuvered the menu.
There were impassioned pleas for splitting entrees, sauce on the side, spinach steamed not creamed, salads sans croutons and probing questions about how much oil is brushed on the broiled fish.
So, here’s a roundup of real-life, dining-out advice from registered dietitians in Atlanta.
“Many chain restaurants offer nutritional information on the Web and many of my clients also use iPhones and can look up calorie information.” — Cheryl Orlansky, Georgia Dietetic Association media representative
“I believe that ‘knowing our intent’ is often crucial in making decisions; so I suggest to clients that they take a few seconds before they go into the restaurant to remind themselves of how they want to handle this eating-out excursion. That intent can then become their mission statement for that meal. They can then leave the restaurant feeling good about themselves and their ability to stick with their intention.” — Terry Hill, Nutrition for Living
“When at the restaurant bar, place an order for water at the same time as you are placing an order for your favorite alcoholic drink. While you have the bartender’s attention, include a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fat appetizer like shrimp cocktail.” — Victoria Quaid Weaver, Atlanta Health & Medical Center
“Ask the wait staff to remove — or better yet — never bring to the table the free foods such as bread and chips. You can consume hundreds of calories before you even get your main dish.” — Kimberly Glenn, registered dietitian in private practice
“Order an appetizer for your entree with a side salad to start, don’t go starving!” — Molly Paulson
On the side
“Choose only one starch when dining out. If you want the bread, skip the potato, if you want the chips, skip the beans and rice.” — Rachel Brandeis
“Challenge yourself to make the meal as colorful as possible by ordering fruits and vegetables.” — Kortney Parman, Emory School of Nursing
The main event
“Never assume grilled, baked or broiled means without butter or oil. Last week I ate at the Atlanta Hyatt Regency restaurant Avanzare. Their portion sizes were reasonable and the best part was the food was great, but nothing was swimming in sauce or butter. I was surprised when my dish arrived as the presentation was beautiful and the asparagus was delicious yet not soaked in anything.” — Marie Spano, sports nutritionist
“Portion sizes are wicked. Share an entree or ask the server to put half of your meal in a to-go container right away and bring you the other half to eat at the restaurant.” — Carren Sellers, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator
Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at carolyn@carolynoneil .com.