Fall Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is just around the corner, bringing diners out in the masses for a good deal on lunch and dinner at the region’s top restaurants. While it’s surely the perfect time to indulge, it is more than possible to stick to your healthy lifestyle while enjoying the first-class dishes, drinks and desserts chefs and mixologists are serving up. Nancy Case, MS, RDN, CDN, outpatient dietitian at MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, shares her best tips for making healthy choices while dining out during Restaurant Week.
1. Check the menu before you go
With menus posted online to view before you make your reservations, take the opportunity to plan out what you will potentially order to avoid making split-second decisions to choose foods you’re trying to avoid. “When people aren’t in their normal dining setting, they abandon their resolutions,” Case says. “Think of the principals you’ve been adhering to at home, whether it’s to eat less fat or fewer carbs, and why you’re choosing to do it. This helps you stick to mindful and conscious eating.”
2. Avoid fried food and too much dressing
Most restaurants offer a wide variety of grilled, steamed or roasted proteins like fish or chicken alongside vegetables. Choosing these over fried options will help reduce the fat, carbohydrate and calorie levels of your meal, Case says. Another way is to ask for salad dressing in a cup on the side as opposed to pre-dressed. “This allows you to control the amount of dressing going onto it, which is especially important with creamy, high-fat dressings.”
3. Ask for take-home boxes
If your meal arrives and the portion is much larger than expected, ask your server for a take-out box to bring some of it home. “You can usually cut the portion in half most of the time because a lot of restaurants give you more than one serving,” Case says. “Limiting the amount of food available on the plate can help you avoid overeating.”
4. Regulate your alcohol intake
While ordering a drink to accompany your appetizer or meal, consider the amount of calories per volume combined with the rest of the food you’re eating. Wine or a low-carb beer are nice low calorie choices, while a craft cocktail with syrups or sweeteners will tack on a bit more. “Going out is really special, so if you know there’s a great dessert or a signature entree you want that isn’t super healthy, then skip the drinks,” Case adds.
5. Treat yourself to dessert
What’s the end of a Restaurant Week meal without the dessert? As most participating restaurants have an in-house pastry chef, Case says, there shouldn’t be any guilt in ordering a truly compelling, unique dessert to round out the dining experience. “I’m much more apt to have dessert when I know a ton of care has gone into it,” Case notes. “The restaurants around here work hard and sincerely, using local, fresh ingredients to craft something really special. Even if it’s something a bit sweet or sugary, the portion size is usually just enough.”
To learn more about MidHudson Regional Hospital, visit midhudsonregional.org.