Eat Out, Don’t Pig Out!

salmon dinnerIt’s Friday night and you’re finally home after a long, crazy workday that capped off an incredibly hectic workweek. As you step through the front door, your two young kids run up, excited to see you, but also hungrily demanding dinner. Normally, you would cook up a healthy meal for your family, but tonight you are super exhausted and just can’t muster the energy. Sensing your lack of energy, your husband suggests eating at the new restaurant down the street. Before answering, you hesitate wondering if they have any healthy choices.

Is it difficult to eat healthy when dining out?
Dining out is fun, but making healthy food choices can be challenging. While most people can make nutritious choices when eating at home, they often let healthy eating habits slide when eating out and order items that are high in fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol. And it doesn’t help that many dishes offered at restaurants are prepared in a manner that makes them even higher in fat and calories than the same dish would be if it were prepared at home. According to a Living Social survey, Americans either purchase takeout or dine out about five meals a week. This is a problem for those trying to lose weight or become healthier because many dishes prepared at restaurants either don’t use the healthiest ingredients or have portions that are just too large. However, despite these challenges, eating a healthy meal when dining out is still attainable. You just need to make sound nutritional choices and know what to order and what to avoid.

How can I eat healthy when dining out?
Next time you find yourself eating out, consider these seven simple tips to ensure that you end up with a healthy meal.

  1. Check how the foods are prepared: The following words in a menu description mean that the item is high in fat and calories: Fried, au gratin, crispy, buttery, cheesy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed or stuffed. So, avoid those and look for items with the following words in the description instead: Steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted.
  2. If you don’t know how the food is prepared, ask: If the preparation is unhealthy, ask the server if the kitchen can make it healthier. Many restaurants are willing to accommodate special requests when preparing certain recipes. For example, you can ask the meal to be prepared without salt or MSG, broiled or baked instead of fried, cooked in vegetable oil (made from canola, olive, corn, soy, sunflower or safflower) or soft margarine instead of butter, or served with the dressing or sauce on the side. You can also request that the fat be trimmed from meats and the skin removed from poultry prior to cooking. If your food isn’t prepared the way you requested, send it back.
  3. See if substitutions are possible. For example, ask if you can get brown rice instead of white rice, a baked potato instead of french fries or a green salad instead of coleslaw. You won’t know if a healthier option is available, unless you ask.
  4. Order smaller portions: Some options are: ordering a couple appetizers instead of a large entree, sharing an entree with your dining companion or boxing up half your meal for tomorrow.
  5. Remove unhealthy complimentary dishes: If your table is offered a complimentary bowl of chips, fried noodles, pork rinds or any other unhealthy dish, decline it, so that you aren’t tempted to snack as you wait for your meal.
  6. Choose a healthy entree: Pick an entree that is lower in fat, such as chicken breast, fish, or pasta without cream sauces. Try to stay away from rich entrees, such as T bone steaks or dishes rich in butter, cheese or cream sauces.
  7. Avoid certain desserts: If you are having dessert, see if the restaurant offers something healthier, such as fruit or sherbet instead of high-fat cakes, pastries or ice creams.

The bottom line:
The good news is that, “You can eat out and eat healthy, too.” It is just about making better choices. Many people think that anything goes when eating out, but it is important to make healthy choices when dining out because of how often many people do it. Eating healthy is important for your health because a diet high in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and cholesterol increases risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other medical conditions. So, if you don’t like to cook, are on vacation or your work requires you to eat out a lot, don’t worry. You can still can eat a healthy meal while dining out, you just need to choose wisely!


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  1. Isabel van Sunder says:

    When I eat out I have to be careful with how the food is prepared because of my many food allergies. It is always good to know what you eat to be healthy.

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