Where Fat Hides: A Guide to Ordering Out

Bacon, burgers, French fries—you don’t need us to tell you that those foods are high in fat. The problem is that fat likes to hide out in some not-so-obvious places too, like your favorite coffee drink or that bran muffin you ordered. And it’s not just your waistline that you need to worry about. Saturated fats can also raise the cholesterol in your blood, which can build plaque that clogs your blood vessels.

Fortunately, finding fast food and restaurant meals that are low in saturated fat isn’t impossible. The next time you’re dining out, use these tips to better navigate the menu options.

  • Decode the descriptions. You know to steer clear of anything “fried,” but seeing foods described as “crispy,” “creamy,” or “breaded” are other high-fat giveaways. Heading to a Japanese restaurant? Tempura dishes are also relatively high in fat content.
  • Be mindful of muffins. They look wholesome, what with all of those berries and grains studding their fluffy tops, but restaurant muffins often have one third to close to one half of your daily allotment of saturated fat. If you like these treats as a grab-and-go breakfast, you should do some advance comparisons by using the online nutritional information found on the chain’s website. One fat-saving trick is to eat just half today and the other half the next. Or, a lower-fat option might be cereal with fresh, low-fat milk.
  • Don’t be fooled by skinless fried chicken.  It may contain less fat than regular fried chicken, but still has more fat than roasted, grilled, baked, or broiled chicken.
  • Back off the bacon. Yes, it’s trendy. (So trendy that it’s now found in everything from ice cream to chips.) But before you order bacon with your pancakes or on your sandwich, remember: It’s not just high in fat, it’s low in nutrition.
  • Outsmart the barista. Coffee has its upside—it’s a perfect pick-me-up, and studies show that caffeine has some healthful qualities. But if you’re not smart about what you pour into it, you could be sipping far more fat than you realize. Let’s start with nondairy creamer: Each serving has 1 gram of fat (some of which might be trans fat). One tablespoon of half-and-half has 1 gram of saturated fat (5 percent of your RDA). One tablespoon of whole milk has less than half a gram of total fat (just 0.28 grams of saturated fat).
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