By Joy Pape
New Yorkers are known for having a lifestyle of eating out a lot or ordering in. Doing so can cause people who want ‘healthy’ options confusing. This column is to help you make healthy or at least healthier choices when you eat out. I will be reviewing local restaurants, with a spin.
Spin? Yes, it may seem like an oxymoron, or boring to think of making healthy choices when you eat out, but it’s not. It’s very doable from your local Chinese takeout to a five star restaurant.
What should I eat? Is the most asked question I get from friends, family, and most everyone.
The answer? That depends. It doesn’t depend upon the newest popular diet or way of eating you may hear or read about. It depends on You.
Science has yet to find the ‘right’ way of eating for everyone. ‘One size’ does not fit all. What scientific studies have shown is what you eat should be individualized for you.
The way I look at it is: What will you do, and what can you do to help you meet your goals?
Goals? What do I mean by that? The easy and true answer is what are you looking to do?
Are you looking to be healthier? If so, in what way? In other words, be specific.
Examples can be, I want to…
• Lose weight
• Lower my cholesterol
• Have a healthier heart
• Have more energy
• Strengthen my bones
• And the list can go on.
So many people follow so many different ways of eating, it’s hard to decide what to eat especially when eating out or ordering in. We hope this column helps you.
A simple answer from many experts about what to eat is: Eat real food, not too much, less meat, more plant foods, and avoid sugar sweetened beverages. Choose raw, grilled, broiled or baked rather than deep fried foods. Beyond this, if you have specific questions, best you work with your health care provider for guidance.
Here are some extra tips I and my patients find helpful when eating out or ordering in.
Before ordering or going to a restaurant, check out the menu online so you are familiar with what’s available and decide before what you will order so you don’t get swayed when you get there.
Speak up! If you see something on the menu you think you would like but is not prepared the way you’d like or need, ask. For example, if the food is deep fried ask if it can be broiled, grilled or baked. If there are more carbs, ask to substitute with lower carb greens you like. Ask for dressing on the side. Ask for the bread or chips not to be sitting in front of you. Ask to hold the salt. Main point is to ask for what you want. Most restaurants are used to this now and will respond to your request.
A staple for most New Yorkers is a favorite local Chinese take-out. My favorite is Christopher Golden Woks, 159 Christopher Street. It is close to where I live. Instead of asking for the food to be delivered, I get out and walk to pick it up. Beyond being more active, picking it up is also a trip! It’s so entertaining to see the different colors, not just a variety of skin colors, but also lifestyle colors. If you are truly a West Villager, you know what I mean. And you get to listen to the many orders getting yelled out and get treated right by Steve the owner, his family and staff.
Ordering healthy there is easy. They listen and honor your requests. The principles are: avoid fried, ask for fresh, less oil, or steamed. Watch your portion size, brown rice instead of white rice, and skip sweet drinks. You can even ask for MSG Free. The portions are generous, so share with others or save the leftovers for tomorrow. When you order, be specific with each order. For example, when you order a selection, say, “Not fried.” You can also order steamed. For example, we love the Sesame Bean Curd, so we say, “Sesame Bean Curd, not fried, and spicy.”
Also, there are several types of sauces, ask for the type you want that’s best for you. Soy sauce can be salty, ask for a substitute. Sweet and Sour can be too sweet, ask for a substitute.
Low Carb: Egg drop soup, any of the poultry, pork, beef, seafood or squid selections, not fried, with vegetables. Skip the sweet and sours, crunchies, fried rice or noodles (lo meins or chow meins). Brown rice? Just a tablespoon or two.
Low Fat: Wonton or vegetable with bean curd soup, any of the entrees mentioned above, not fried, less oil or steamed. Sauces on the side. Go easy on the crunchies. Brown rice and the noodle dishes work.
Vegetarian: Vegetable with bean curd soup. Any of the vegetable dishes. My favorite is a staple in our house: Snow Peas, Water Chestnuts, and Broccoli. We order it spicy, but you don’t have to. (Note, vegetarian is different than vegan. Ask for vegan choices if you’d like.)
Dessert? A fortune cookie. If you’re going low carb, read your fortune, laugh and skip the cookie.
We are fortunate to have Christopher Golden Woks in our West Village. This month they are celebrating their 30 years being here. They must be doing something right!
Joy Pape, FNP-CDCES, CFCN is a board-certified nurse practitioner who believes in and practices wholistic health and healing. She is a board-certified diabetes care and education specialist, and foot care nurse. She practices at the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian, as well as with Dr. Rock Positano DPM, MSc, MPH, DSc, Founder and Director of the Non-surgical Foot and Ankle Service and the Joe DiMaggio Heel and Pain Center at The Hospital of Special Services. She also has a private practice located in the West Village.