In a world filled with many convenience and fast food options at your fingertips, it can be a challenge to choose healthy food entrees. Whether dining at a restaurant or creating a menu for your family at home, there are ways you can plan ahead to keep your focus on meals that contain the nutrients your body needs while satisfying your taste buds at the same time.
Benefits of Healthy Food Entrees
Choosing healthy food entrees for meals instead of fatty and calorie-rich fast food or processed convenience food enables you to get nutrients your body needs for good health while helping you to meet your ideal caloric intake goals. While a fast food meal or restaurant entrée full of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and sugar may leave you feeling lethargic and vulnerable to weight gain, low-fat, lower-calorie, and healthy food entrees that are based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins are more likely to increase energy levels while decreasing risks for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Tips for Choosing Healthy Restaurant Entrees
There are basic nutrition guidelines you can follow to make the smartest eating choices possible, even when you are dining out. For example, choose lean proteins that are baked, broiled or grilled instead of batter-dipped and fried. Request the server to prepare your food without butter, gravy or cream sauces. Ask for your salad dressing on the side, and choose a low-fat option. Just say no to French fries and instead ask for a side of steamed vegetables. Making selections and requests such as these can help ensure your meal is packed with vitamins, fiber and other nutrients without loading you up with too much fat and too many refined carbohydrates.
Tips for Planning Healthy Entrees at Home
The challenge when cooking at home tends to be lack of time, but you can still efficiently make nutritious and convenient entrees for your family. Much like you would when analyzing a restaurant menu for healthy entrees, you want to pay attention to cooking methods. Prepare lean proteins on the grill or bake or broil them in the oven to eliminate the need for added oil or fat. Serve your main course with steamed vegetables or a side salad with a little bit of low-fat dressing. If you are serving bread, pasta or other grains, use whole grain products. When you have plenty of fresh, nutritious ingredients on hand, it is much easier to prepare healthier food entrees.
Healthy Food Entrées—Elaborate or Simple
When it comes to healthy food entrees, you can get creative with elaborate dishes containing numerous ingredients, or you can keep it simple with just a few fresh ingredients that pack a big nutritional punch. If you have some extra time, and want to come up with a special healthy entrée for a special night, seek recipes that utilize many kinds of vegetables to add color and different nutrients to the meal. You can make flavorful sauces out of low-fat broths and different herbs and spices. Cook your lean proteins a few different ways, or serve small portions of two different proteins, for example, a lean steak paired with shrimp cocktail. If you just got home from work and need a healthy entrée on the table right away, you can have dinner prepared quickly by baking a protein like white fish and serving it with a simple side salad made of dark, leafy greens. Throw in a whole wheat bread roll, and you have a well-balanced meal to fuel the body.
- Health.gov: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Choose My Plate: Build a Healthy Meal
- Harvard School of Public Health: Health Gains from Whole Grains
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Tips on How to Make Healthier Meals
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight
- MayoClinic.com: Nutrition and Healthy Eating
- Cancer.org: Restaurant Eating Tips
- Harvard School of Public Health: Five Quick Tips for Following the Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – Healthy Eating When Dining Out
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images