Defensive Dining: Eating Out Healthy
Do you wish you could make eating out a healthy experience? We all have our reasons for dining away from home. Be it business, social, or just no time to cook-Americans eat an average of 4-5 meals on the run and away from their own homes every week. Research seems to support that the more meals eaten away from home, the more likely those meals are too high in sodium, fats, and calories. Those unplanned calories from dining away from home could easily translate to a larger pants size in no time. If you find it necessary to eat out more than once a week, start some smart eating strategies to help keep your pants size in check.
As is the case with all intelligent eating, it is necessary to manage your dining experiences away from home. It is always a good idea to plan your options in advance if possible.
- Look for restaurants or carry-out options with a range of menu items. That way, those that choose to eat healthy will have more choices!
- Consider choosing your restaurant after checking some valuable websites such as www.healthydiningfinder.com
- Consider reviewing menus online prior to getting to the restaurant. Even if the nutrition information is not available, you can preplan your best healthy eating options and strategies ahead of time.
- When deciphering a menu, opt for entrées which are grilled, roasted, braised, poached, steamed, or baked. Avoid entrées which are described as pan-fried, creamy, crispy, buttered, and battered.
- Order the regular or smaller sized options if available, since a normal restaurant entrée is usually enough food to feed 2-3 people! The large portions justify the menu price.
- Split a menu item to share at the restaurant.
- Consider ordering an appetizer as your entrée.
- Ask that high calorie dressings be served on the side and control how much you eat.
- If offered bread, ask that it not be served. We have a tendency to overdo the calories from bread prior to our meal. This translates to too much extra sodium and too many calories. Adding the fresh butter to the bread is another calorie pitfall.
- Request the “people” bag or foam box come when the meal is served. Take half of the meal and put in the bag or container before you dig into your plated meal!
Practice making good food substitutions
The more often you do this, the easier and more natural it becomes. If you eat out often, it is a good idea to know how to make healthier substitutions almost instinctively. Here are some simple food substitution strategies to slash your calories and filter out the sodium and fat from your restaurant meals:
- Ask if light salad dressing is available, but expect that it probably is not, and consider bringing your own pre-packaged light dressings if you enjoy salads and eat them often when dining out.
- Always replace those fries and chips with fresh fruit or a baked potato. Both options will be lower in sodium, virtually fat-free, and loaded with potassium and fiber.
- Remember that calories come from beverages as well. Alcoholic beverages can have a lot calories and increase your appetite to boot! Consider calorie-free substitutions such as sparkling water in a wine glass or a sugar-free soda.
With some advance planning, menu decoding, and eating action plan you can enjoy both your cuisine and physique!
Use this information at your own risk. Although I am a licensed IL dietitian/nutritionist, I am not your dietitian. The information in my blog Chew on This located at www.mydietmatters.com is for educational and informational purposes only. It is also my own opinion and subject to change in the future. Please consult with your own medical professionals for individual treatment.