Some dining out tips from restaurant dietitian

Not only is she a national medalist in masters’ level figure skating; she also helps diners find healthier options for their figures as the director of nutrition for the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association.

After early mornings on the ice rink practicing her jumps, spins and twirls, she heads to work to support the NRA’s efforts to assist restaurant owners and chefs who want to cut the calories but not the flavor appeal of foods on the menu.

“I walk the walk and talk the talk,” says Dubost, who eats healthfully to help her be her best at her sport and her job as a registered dietitian. “Most people are surprised and appreciative when they hear the restaurant association has a dietitian on staff.”

A major initiative for Dubost this year is the NRA’s Kids Live Well campaign, which encourages restaurants to ramp up their selection of healthy dishes for children. She adds that often it’s a matter of highlighting healthy menu items already on menus and giving diners the option to make special requests, such as steamed spinach instead of sautéeing it in oil.

While buying local, seasonal and sustainable is a powerful part of the restaurant trend to support local farm and business communities, Dubost says, “Farm-to-table does not always equate to healthful choices.” That’s particularly true for weight control and heart health. Bacon, butter and cream can be natural, organic and come from local farms, too.

Better breakfasts:

  • Before you automatically reach for the pancake syrup and drown a short stack in a sea of liquid sugar, Dubost suggests pairing your pancakes or waffles with fruit. Top with a side of applesauce or chopped fruit from a fresh fruit cup to add good nutrition, fiber and moisture to contrast with the crispy waffle. If there are real berries in the blueberry pancakes, that’s a good thing. But avoid the super sweet blueberry syrup which is usually just flavored and colored to resemble blueberry.
  • Vegetables can be morning stars, too. A veggie omelet, quiche or frittata filled with a garden of goodies like mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, spinach or broccoli florets puts you well on your way to the recommended minimum three cups of vegetables per day.
  • To cut fat and calories, ask for the fat-free or low-fat milk with breakfast cereals and your morning coffee. Did you know that a large latte contains about a half-cup of milk? You’re getting nine nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and protein in your java.

Leaner lunch and dinner:

  • Limit consumption of high-calorie fried foods and learn to recognize menu terms such as flash-fried, pan-fried, deep-fried and lightly fried. “Crispy” can mean fried, too.
  • Look for tomato-based sauces for pastas and entrees. Dubost says, “Substitute mayonnaise-based condiments with healthier options, such as barbecue sauce or mustard.”
  • Sirloin or tenderloin cuts of beef are leaner meat choices. Grilled or broiled fish topped with flavorful seasonings is a great option, Dubost says. A good example is the new Salt-and-Pepper Trout at Ted’s Montana Grill, which is lightly seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice and then topped with a salsa of roasted corn, tomatoes, cilantro and citrus. Under 650 calories, the trout is served with sides of roasted asparagus and sliced tomatoes.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy the experience of dining out, which might be Dubost’s best advice of all.

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