Dining out, Eating Green

Because restaurant profit margins are so thin, many venues are unable to buy local or offer numerous organic dishes, but that shouldn’t force you to stay home. Even if there’s not a single local or organic offering, eating in a restaurant doesn’t mean completely sacrificing your commitment to eating green.  By learning and practicing a few tips when ordering, you can ensure the dining decisions you make will be the best ones for your taste buds and the environment.

The following ideas are the inspiration of Jared Koch, author of Clean Plates NYC and contributor to The Daily Green website which offers a slideshow and the following tips in the article,  8 Ways to Eat Green, Even when Eating Out.

  • Order Filtered Tap Water – Restaurants that filter tap water already score big but if filtering is not a practice they employ, even regular tap water is better than plastic or glass bottles.
  • With Beans, Go Beyond Soy – Beans are a healthier vegetarian protein option. Ask if they’ve been soaked overnight, which makes them easier to digest. Or look for whole grains, tempeh (a fermented soy), or good quality free-range eggs. Can’t do without soy? Inquire whether the eatery serves an organic, non-GMO (genetically modified) soy entrée.
  • Be Sweet Smart – Ask if the chef makes any desserts using natural sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup or agave nectar. If not, go for some fresh fruit. Or — if you can’t resist the cake — split it with everyone.
  • Beware Trans Fats – These are so bad for you (think heart disease, diabetes) that NYC has banned trans-fats from restaurants, and California will take them off menus next year. Opt for steamed, baked, or roasted dishes. Or ask: “What cooking oils do you use?” Coconut’s ideal (most stable at high heat); high-quality olive oil and organic butter aren’t perfect, but they’re better than most vegetable oils.
  • Skip the Table Salt – Two exceptions: high-quality sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt. Each is chock-full of good-for-you magnesium and trace minerals. (The teen waitress at your local Applebee’s may furrow her brow when anything “Himalayan” is requested, but it’s worth a shot right?)
  • Eat Happy Chickens – When ordering meat, inquire where your animal lived (local is best), how it was raised, and what it was fed. At a minimum, go for hormone- and antibiotic-free animals; even better, look for free-range chicken, pasture-raised and grass-fed beef, or wild or organic-farmed fish.
  • Eat Meals From the 21st Century – Frozen veggies and microwaved meals — convenient cooking that skips steps — aren’t going to be as healthy. Ask your waiter: Do you use a microwave? Are your vegetables fresh or frozen? Better yet, are they locally and organically grown?
  • Consider the Overall Meal – What if the meat’s not organic and there are trans-fats galore? No matter what, eat your veggies; you’ll counteract some of the negative effects of other foods. To avoid poorly raised animal products and bad oils, try pasta (with its lower glycemic index, pasta cooked al dente is best) with broccoli and tomato sauce. Steaming or poaching is also preferred.

Posted by: Nick