Making Good Choices in Difficult Places. Part 1

Restaurants are some of the most difficult places to follow a low-fat diet. They lure us inside with large servings and tempt us with buttery dishes. But eating out does not have to be a disaster. Think through your options, ask for what you want, and make good choices.

Let’s go out to breakfast and give it a try.

Most restaurant menus have a traditional breakfast with eggs, breakfast meat and bread. It’s your turn to order. The server asks, “What kind of eggs would you like? Scrambled, fried, poached, cheesy omelet or scrambled egg substitute?”

Okay, right off the bat, look for key words. Cheesy, creamy, fried or buttery should be a warning flag — high saturated fat, calories and cholesterol ahead! Let’s skip the cheesy omelet and fried eggs. That leaves scrambled, poached or scrambled egg substitute.

The egg substitute is going to be the best low-fat choice. Egg substitute is mostly made of egg whites and has a slightly thinner texture than regular eggs. The equivalent of one egg has less than one gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol, but the same amount of protein and other nutrients as a regular egg. If this low-fat egg alternative does not appeal to you, then you have a choice of poached or regular scrambled eggs.

A whole egg has approximately seven total grams of fat. At 100 calories per egg, that’s 63% calories from fat (seven grams times nine calories per fat gram equals 63 divided by 100 calories equals 63% calories from fat). Scrambled eggs are often cooked in margarine, which adds fat grams. Poached eggs can be lower in fat than scrambled eggs because they are usually cooked without additional oils. You decide to try scrambled egg substitute.

Tips

Eat eggs sparingly or use egg substitute in your recipes, for omelets, or for scrambling. Ask that your scrambled eggs be cooked without added margarine or other cooking oils. Ask if the restaurant has egg substitute products likes Eggbeaters® if you don’t see one listed as an alternative on the menu.

Here comes the kicker! The server asks, “Would you like bacon, sausage links or Canadian bacon?”

Breakfast meats tend to be very high in fat, cholesterol and nitrites. Nitrites are preservatives used to prevent botulism. They are suspected of contributing to cancer. If breakfast meat is just something you can’t skip, let’s make some choices based on fat content.

Three slices of bacon pack 12 grams of fat, four grams of that saturated. Bacon comes in at a whopping 77% calories from fat. Wow! Bacon and sausage do have protein, good amounts of thiamine and B12 ; however, you will pay in fat for these benefits.

Per serving, sausage is higher in cholesterol than bacon. Four small sausage links are higher in fat grams than a serving of bacon, at approximately 16 grams of fat — almost six grams of it saturated! Since the calories in sausage are also higher than bacon, the percentage of calories from fat is about the same, coming in at 76%! Let’s skip this one!

A serving of two slices of Canadian bacon is the best choice here. It is lower in fat and calories, although it gets 41% of its calories from fat. It is higher in protein than the bacon or sausage and still contains high levels of vitamin B12 and thiamine. Canadian bacon is the better choice as far as fat content; however, this breakfast favorite may also contain nitrites. Since you saved some fat grams by choosing the scrambled egg substitute, you opt for the bacon as a mid-level choice.

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