The Diet Doctor: Restaurant Oil Slick

Here’s a great tip and insight on ordering at a restaurant in regards to oil.

Oil Slick
There’s oil on almost every restaurant dish, and while some oils (e.g., canola, olive) are healthier than others, they all have approximately 120 calories per tablespoon. So you may go to the trouble of ordering an egg-white omelet, believing you’re making a “healthy” choice, but it could be doused in oil.

Or you might order grilled or steamed vegetables, but they may have been marinating in oil for hours, if not all day. It’s difficult to get grilled or steamed veggies without oil, because they must be made to order–and that takes a lot of time in a busy kitchen. And certain vegetables are worse than others. “Eggplant, for example, absorbs a lot of oil–just poke it around in your dish, and see what comes out,” says Greely.

There’s oil in other “healthy” foods as well. Because fat and oil help preserve cooked food, busy restaurants usually partially cook poultry/fish and then coat it in butter/oil until it’s ready to be finished, says Billy Strynkowski, executive chef of Cooking Light magazine. “Even if you order your chicken ‘dry’ with the sauce on the side, poultry is always pan-fried in oil or clarified butter.”

Pasta, potatoes and rice, again, are often partially cooked and filmed with some type of fat so they stay fresh and don’t clump together, adds Juventino Avila, chef and instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Oh, and if you think that having simple rice and beans at your favorite Mexican restaurant is healthy, think again–the rice is fried, then steamed.

Healthy tip: Be aware of where you’re eating. Restaurants typically want to please their patrons; however, most of the time, unless the restaurant promotes itself as healthy, it just doesn’t have the equipment, materials, time or utensils to do it right, offers Avila.

Almost all the chefs agree: If you want it cooked a certain way, make sure to tell your server that you have an allergy (to butter, or whatever it is you want eliminated). This usually encourages the chef to make up a new batch of veggies, chicken, etc., without those added calories. Avila recommends calling the restaurant in advance and making sure it can provide the food exactly the way you want it prepared.

– Tip by Charles Stuart Platkin on

Disclaimer: Reader discretion advised, please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.