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How To Lose Weight While Eating Out

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

A little menu savvy is all that's needed to weave your way through just about any eatery.

Decisions, decisions. One look at today's "power" lunch menus can leave you feeling powerless, falling off the dieters's track in an attempt to climb the company ladder.

Fear not.

Whether dining out on business or pleasure, a little menu savvy is all that's needed to dodge and weave your way through just about any eatery and emerge with your waistline intact. Here, then, an intercontinental offering of the best (and worst) dinner choices for the calorie conscious.

Seafood

The restaurant of choice for may dieters, seafood houses sometimes serve up deceptively fattening fare. A dozen steamed clams doesn't sound like much. But dunked in butter, they can add up to nearly 300 calories.

Similarly, a "low-calorie" entree like flounder stuffed with crabmeat can easily top 500 calories if it's smothered with white sauce. Beware of seafood dishes with fancy last names, such as Lobster Newburg (725 calories) or Clams Casino (550). And steer clear of combination platters. These king-sized dinners often feature high-calorie concoctions.

Better Alternatives:

Take tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder over the creamy New England version and save half the calories (about 80 per cup). For similar savings, choose a clear seafood bisque. Shrimp cocktail (100 calories for five large shrimp with cocktail sauce) is the obvious choice over steamed clams with butter. An 8-ounce lobster tail, at just 115 calories, or six steamed whole hard shell crabs at 144, is a fine dinner entree if you can do without the butter. If you can't, stick to broiled whitefish, such as flounder, or scrod.

Best Bet:

"Pick and peel" shrimp with cocktail sauce. Beyond the obvious caloric advantage, any seafood-such as shrimp in the shell, stone-crab claws or steamed hard-shell crabs – that you must first pry from its shell – slows eating to an appetite-satisfying pace.

Mexican

South-of-the-border cuisine offers excellent diet fare, especially dishes that are light on meat and heavy on toppings like chopped tomato and pepper, shredded lettuce and salsa.

4 Ways to Scrutinize the Menu for Diet Destroyers

Scrutinize menu offerings with a lean eye for fat. Here's how:

Know How the Dish is Prepared:

Frying foods can double the caloric count on an otherwise low-caloric count on an otherwise low-calorie food. Fried foods that are first breaded are particularly bad. The breading soaks up the fat like a sponge. If "crispy" describes an item on the menu, don't give it a second glance.

Keep Meat to a Minimum:

By nature, meat is high in fat. Ironically, diet platters on many menus offer the hamburger without the bun.

Don't Confuse Health Foods with Low-Calorie Ones:

Polyunsaturated oils and margarine may have a cholesterol-cutting edge over animal fats but, from a diner's standpoint, they are as bad as butter. Similarly, fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, which are considered especially good for the heart, can take your calorie count too far upstream.

Beware the Salad Bar:

Croutons, sunflower seeds, bacons bits and grated cheese pack even more calories per weight than the mayonnaise-base potatoe and macaroni salads. As for the dressings, oil and vinegar can be just as bad as the prepared blue cheese if you have a heavy hand with the oil.

Eating out and trying to keep on your diet can be tricky, but its not an impossible chore. Sensible choices lead to substantial weight loss in the battle of the bulge.

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