How to Stick to a Heart-Healthy Diet Plan When Eating Out

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Filed Under: Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 04/17/2014

How to Stick to a Heart-Healthy Diet Plan When Eating Out
This photo is of myself with Phillip and Liza Boet who we met in Naples, Florida while dining at their restaurant, Chez Boet.
 
One of the most frequent questions I get is how I stay true to a heart-healthy diet plan when I spend so much time traveling and lecturing. That’s an excellent question. When I’m home and eating in familiar restaurants that serve organic foods, sticking to a heart-healthy diet plan is easy. But traveling can be a whole different story. 
 
I faced that challenge just last week while spending time in Naples, Florida with my wife. We managed to find excellent restaurants that served healthy foods. But when I stepped back to ponder how we got so “lucky,” it really came down to three simple tips I wanted to share with you.
 

Tip #1: To Stick to a Heart-Healthy Diet Plan, Talk to the Locals

While visiting Florida I had the benefit of some “local knowledge.” I was visiting my colleague Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist and author of Grain Brain and The Grain Brain Cookbook. Similar to my book and cookbook pairing about cholesterol, Dr. Perlmutter shares my passion for following a gluten-free, heart-healthy diet plan. So I was happy to allow him to select a local restaurant, which he did—called Sea Salt. The restaurant has open air dining and an extremely heart-healthy menu. The four of us shared fresh local seafood and grass-fed meat with organic fresh vegetables.

If you have a local contact when you’re traveling—by all means tap into it. You can also benefit from a bit of local knowledge by asking your hotel concierge or front desk staff for recommendations. Or, you can go on websites like Yelp.com to see restaurant reviews from local residents, which are often candid and honest.
 

Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

The day after dining with Dr. Perlmutter, my wife and I found ourselves exploring the historic district and having fun searching for another healthy meal out. After reading the menus posted outside of many of the local eateries, we came upon one that caught our attention called Chez Boet. 

The first tip-off that this was a good choice is that it offered French home cooking, which generally means smaller portions than are served in many American restaurants. Plus, with some careful reading we discovered that they’re the first certified “green” restaurant in Naples and most of their menu offerings are gluten-free

My wife peeked in the window of the darkened establishment to check out the décor, and at first was totally embarrassed to see someone sitting at table looking back. But when the gentleman came to the door and offered to let her take a look inside she couldn’t resist. Phillipe, the Parisian-born owner, explained the history of his restaurant and his dedication to serving up food that’s fresh, local, organic, and sustainable. 
 
Meeting Phillipe’s wife Lisa as she stopped by our table that night was equally enjoyable. As an American who lived in Paris for years, she explained that in Europe no one uses the word “organic” to describe their food because it’s assumed that all food is locally obtained and grown without fertilizers, pesticides, and GMO’s. 
 
The takeaway for you is to read menus carefully and not be afraid to walk into a restaurant to ask questions—including inquiring about whether the food is organic and GMO-free.
 

Tip #3: Do Some Research Before You Go

When I travel, I often do a bit of homework before I go. The internet is a great resource for looking up menus and nutrition information. You can also use sites like Organicrestaurants.com to find reviews of organic restaurants in the U.S. and abroad.

Also, if you should be looking to grab some on-the-go fast food, you may want to refer to a book I co-authored entitled The Fast Food Diet. It will help you to navigate which fast food chains have healthy selections, and how to discriminate your best options. 

Now it’s your turn: How do you stick to a heart-healthy diet plan while dining out?
 

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