Eating out - whether it's fine dining, a business lunch, meals on the road, or perhaps you simply just don't feel like cooking, you can make choices to ensure your restaurant meals are heart healthy.
But of course the first thing we need to do is to clearly define what we mean by "heart healthy" eating.
For years we thought, as the majority of people still think, that it meant eating low fat with lots of "healthy whole grains".
That is the recommendation of governments, health bodies such as the diabetes and heart disease associations, doctors and dieticians.
But there is a large and rapidly growing group of people - experts and lay people alike - who are questioning this "accepted wisdom". In fact the dietary advice we've been getting for the past several decades has not made the population healthier. Just the opposite has happened.
As a society, the so-called "standard American diet" or SAD, has spawned an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a whole list of related diseases.
We decided to challenge and question this standard advice and searched for some reasons that things were not going according to "plan".
What we found was a lot of information, supported by scientific research, that pointed to the fact that the recommended low fat high carb diet was never shown by any scientific research to be an effective or healthy way of eating.
So we won't go into all the details again here.
In summary though, let's just say that when the McGovern committee made their dietary recommendations back in the early '70s to cut fat, eat more "healthy whole grains", cut saturated fat and instead use "healthy vegetable oils", cut cholesterol, cut down on red meat, etc., there was NOT universal acceptance of these recommendations amongst the experts. In fact there was much disagreement and the suggestion that it was foolish to make such sweeping recommendations given the lack of supporting evidence.
Nevertheless, politics, personal agendas and economics got in the way of good science and here we are today facing an unprecedented health crisis unlike anything that's ever faced us in the past.
All right, that was a long winded introduction to the section on eating out!
But important to understand where we're coming from and why we've changed the recommendations from those that were formerly on these pages!
Where we used to say things like ask for low fat versions and lean cuts of meat, and whole-grain bread instead of white, we now say reject the bread altogether. Substitute extra vegetables for the rice or potatoes. Choose dishes that do not include pasta. Skip the high sugar, carb laden desserts!
Eating out with a low carbohydrate diet is really quite simple.
And if you're concerned about the health issues that surround so many folks with heart disease such as overweight, diabetes or pre-diabetes, and a whole host of other metabolic syndrome issues, cutting carbs while at the same time losing your fear of fat, and in fact eating what would be considered a high-fat diet by so many diet "dictocrats" could be the answer you're looking for.
But we don't want you to take our word for it!
We've done our research, read dozens of books (see suggestions to the right), articles and blog posts, listened to many more dozens of podcasts, many with interviews with researchers, doctors, dieticians and other health care providers, along with countless case studies or powerfully moving stories from people just like you who have struggled for years and even decades, then found their answer in a low carb or Paleo lifestyle.
Choosing a low carb or Paleo lifestyle means making healthy choices most of the time. But the reality of life is that from time to time there will be special occasions. And those are often celebrated by going out to eat somewhere special.
If you're compliant 85 to 90 percent of the time, you can allow yourself an occasional treat. You'll know yourself what you can allow and what you can't.
But by all means indulge a little bit (and we highly recommend you take "little bit" to heart!) when it's truly a special occasion. So long as you're not looking for endless special occasions to "celebrate"!
And if that includes a very sweet, sugar and carb laden dessert, share it, or vow to only eat a portion (if you can!).
After consuming something like that, pay attention to how it makes you feel and let that be your guide for future indulgences.
There's our take on eating out (and a bit more!). Tell us what you think. And please consider taking the time to share your own story, whether it's about researching and adopting a low carb or Paleo lifestyle, or your other experiences with heart disease.