Carbohydrates aren’t the bad guys people make them out to be. You need carbs for energy, but not all carbohydrates are created equal. The bad ones are rapidly absorbed and send insulin levels spiking. This means bad carbs are more likely to be stored as fat. Examples of unhealthy carbs are white rice, white potatoes and anything made with white flour.
There are also good carbs, carbohydrates that are rich in fiber and absorbed more slowly by the body. Examples are vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils and whole grains. The key is to eat more of the good ones, while limiting the carbs that raise your insulin levels and boost fat storage. Doing this isn’t always easy.
It’s not hard to avoid bad carbs if you eat at home but not when you pull into the parking lot of your favorite restaurants. Restaurants are a minefield for unhealthy carbs. From the loaf of bread to the tortilla chips that grace your table at a Mexican restaurant, avoiding bad carbs when eating out has its challenges.
Here are some tips to help you enjoy a meal at a restaurant without overloading on bad carbs.
Hold the Bread Basket
The bread most restaurants bring for you to snack on while waiting for the meal is made with white flour. If you’re like most people, it’s easy to knock down a few slices while waiting for your entree to arrive. When you do this, you’ve already primed your body for fat storage, and the meal hasn’t even arrived. At Mexican restaurants, it’s the basket of tortilla chips you have to worry about. Don’t tempt yourself. Tell them to hold the carby pre-meal munchies.
Substitute Veggies for Potatoes
Most entrees at American restaurants come with potatoes. Ask to substitute the vegetable of the day or see to see what other side dishes they offer. More restaurants are adding veggies to menu these days to please health-conscious customers. If you can pick two sides, choose double vegetables or see if you can order a salad as a side dish. Think of the additional antioxidants you’re getting.
Go Brown, Not White
When you eat at a Chinese, Japanese or Indian restaurant, almost every entree is served with white rice. White rice is almost completely devoid of fiber and nutrients, but restaurants love it because it fills you up. Substitute brown rice instead. Brown rice is higher in fiber, has more nutrients and won’t send your insulin levels soaring. It’s a simple substitution that’s good for your waistline and your overall health.
Make Sandwiches More Carb Friendly
Most restaurants serve sandwiches on bread made with white flour. If they don’t have whole grain bread, reduce the number of bad carbs by discarding one piece of bread and eating your sandwich open-faced. Some restaurants such as Red Robin offer sandwiches wrapped in lettuce instead of bread. Take advantage of this or improvise and make your own.
Should You Say No to Dessert?
You’ve passed up the bread and substituted vegetables for potatoes. Nice job! Don’t let your willpower falter when they bring the dessert tray around. Most desserts are loaded with white flour and sugar, but you still have options. Some restaurants have fresh fruit in the kitchen that’s not on the menu. Ask for it with a light touch of whipped cream to make it taste more decadent. Or end the meal with a cappuccino instead. A cappuccino with sugar-free sweetener may be just the touch of sweet you need to feel satisfied without the bad carbs.
The Bottom Line?
You can eat out and still limit your bad carbohydratess but make your selections wisely. Use these five tips to avoid bad carb overload.