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Eating Clean at Restaurants

dining-out Everyone knows it, Baltimoreans love their food. And it's likely you eat out at least 7 meals a week. Come on, admit it! With so  many amazing restaurants in this city, it's easy to say hell with your diet. But eating clean is important, and there are ways to keep the calorie count down while still enjoying all that Baltimore has to offer. Whether you're an experienced dietician or just trying to watch your figure, here are some tips anyone would find useful on how to eat clean at restaurants: Plan ahead, and know the ingredients,check the restaurant's website beforehand for their nutrition section, and shoot for a meal with as little processed ingredients as possible. Look for buzzwords. Organic, locally sourced, grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free, sustainably raised are, yes, a bit trendy, but they can also serve as indicators that the restaurant is concerned and conscientious about its sources. When ordering a salad, pay attention to what they put in it and ask yourself, honestly, if it's healthy. Many chain restaurants make an effort with under 500 calories or "fit" dishes, but still load it with flavor-enhancers. Be mindful of all components and remember its ok to substitute or take away certain ingredients. Avoid creamy dressings, and always ask for it on the side. If you order a burger, check if they have wheat buns, and stick with veggie toppings instead of bacon, cheese or other fatty garnishes. While a deli turkey sandwich is always better than a greasy burger, you should still be aware that most thinly-slice deli meats contain a lot of sodium and preservatives. If the restaurant offers freshly carved turkey or chicken, order than instead. Try to choose lean meat like chicken or turkey over red meat like ham or beef. And when considering the sandwich, also be aware of the toppings and dressings/condiments. Remember, creamy=fatty. When eating Mexican, choose corn tortillas over flour tortillas. Flour tortillas (even the whole wheat varieties) are higher in calories, fat and sodium. Or nix the tortilla altogether and ask for a lettuce wrap. You'd be surprised how you don't miss the taste of a tortilla. Choose a dish that is mostly veggies, and opt for avocado or guacamole instead of sour cream. Ask if they make their own salsa. Fresh salsa won't have as many preservatives or sodium, but store-bought salsa is still better than sour cream. At Chinese restaurants, very little of their food is clean. Ask for simple steamed vegetables and brown rice (not fried). A little bit of soy sauce is okay, but one tiny packet holds 520mg of sodium, one quarter of your DAILY intake, so tread lightly. Remember that you're human, and you can't restrict yourself forever. For your mental health, order that huge plate of pasta, but only every once in a while. To keep the calories down, though, drink lots of water in between bites. It takes 15 minutes for your brain to recognize that you're full, so chewing slower will reduce the chance of over-eating/ingesting unnecessary calories. Drinking all that water will also help you fill up faster. This can be applied to any meal, clean or not. Side note: talking more means less food is going in your mouth; consider dining with a chatty Kathy! Dab your pizza with a napkin (or two) before eating. That grease you see on top is actually fat that melted away from the cheese when it was heated. Blotting your pie can save about 40 calories and 4 grams of fat per slice. Steak is not the worst thing in the world, but your sides can be. Choose steamed vegetables or a side salad instead of fries or loaded baked potato. If you still want to carb it up, choose a simple baked potato and use as little butter as possible. As always, stay away from soda. But if you must, ask for lots of ice, and order a water with it as well. The more ice in your cup, the less soda you'll consume (while still satisfying the craving). And when you run out of soda, you'll drink more water while waiting for the server to refill your soda. Lattes are amazing, but they are also jam-packed with sugars and sweeteners. Decide what you absolutely must have in order for it to taste right, and stick with those few ingredients. Telling them what to put in it gives you control over your calorie and sugar intake. We here at 520 Park  utilize these tips regularly and encourage everyone to eat clean both at home and on-the-go, and exercise weekly, if not daily. Please remember to take your health seriously--be mindful of your food choices and practice fitness activities that you find fun!