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Health & nutrition insights.

Dietitian Approved Tips To Eating Healthy While Eating Out

Eating Healthy While Eating Out

Eating out is no longer an occasional treat, so you need to be prepared to make a healthy choice even when you go out. Here is what I recommend when eating out so you can enjoy the convenience and stay healthy!

Eat smaller portions than you do at home

Restaurants are typically in the business to make food taste good, which often means extra fat and salt. Some restaurants use lard for frying, butter for grilling and sautéing, and lots of butter on steamed veggies, potatoes, meats, pastas, and other items. You can ask for them to prepare your food with no added butter or fats and ask for dressing on the side so you can control your portion. A good rule of thumb is to eat all your veggies and half of everything else.

This will save you money too because you can box up the other half of your meal for tomorrow!

Fill up on vegetables

Usually, meals with veggies are healthier so that is a good way to start when looking at a menu. Vegetables are also a low calorie way to fill up. If your meal does not come with vegetables, order a side salad (dressing on the side) or steamed/sautéed veggies (no butter) with your meal. This will change the focus to what you should have instead of what you should not have, which is a better way to think about it. You can also modify orders that don’t come with veggies by ordering them as a side instead of fries.

Avoid appetizers unless you have it as part of your entrée

The bread, chips, or fried appetizers before a meal is not good for your health or waistline. But, it is really hard to resist, so instead of fighting it, don’t order it and ask them not to bring the complimentary items. You can order a hot tea or coffee to have something to do while you are waiting for your food. You can also just enjoy talking or reading while waiting. If you want to get a healthy appetizer, it is better to get it as your meal and have a salad with it.

Choose baked, grilled, broiled or sautéed items instead of fried foods

Fried foods are not healthy for your heart or your weight, so avoid them most of the time. They are often fried in lard or other unhealthy fat, and starchy foods act like a sponge, so fried potatoes, anything with a breading, donuts, etc. are really high in fat and calories.

Avoid beverages with calories

Choose water, tea or coffee to drink and avoid adding sugar. You can save several hundred calories at a meal by avoiding sodas, sweet drinks, and high sugar alcoholic drinks. Water will quench your thirst better and you will get the fluid your body needs every day.

Don’t have an all or nothing attitude-do your best even if you splurge a little

We have all been there, we end up having to go to a fast food place and then we convince ourselves that we may as well have a burger and fries, a soda and then dessert, because we already blew it by going to a fast food place. Try to avoid this pitfall and do your best even in a situation that is not ideal. Choose some veggies if you can and then eat small portions-you can always do something to make your food healthier, like ordering a small and adding veggies or fruit. Just because you eat out does not give you an excuse to eat unhealthy or overeat. You can make good choices and you can control yourself-see how healthy you can eat out!

Tips for Types of Restaurants

Italian

  • Avoid the extra bread that comes before a meal
  • Order a salad as an appetizer
  • Choose an entrée with a lean protein, veggies and a side of pasta (full pasta dishes are often 4-6 servings of pasta!)
  • Think about fish and other seafood-it is a healthy choice and often comes with some veggies
  • Avoid cream sauces-choose tomato or olive oil based sauces instead
  • Don’t carb load (bread, pasta, potatoes…all at one meal is unnecessary)

Mexican

  • Those chips and salsa, queso or guacamole are tasty but really add up so eat them in moderation
  • Choose a salad with shrimp, chicken, or beans and skip all of the cheese, crispy toppings and the shell
  • Corn tortillas are generally healthier than flour
  • Margaritas are very high in sugar and calories so limit them to special occasions

Chinese

  • Food is often flash fried before it is stir fried so order carefully
  • Steamed entrees are the best bet, but don’t have much flavor, so add any sauce you like on the side and use a couple of spoons of that on top
  • Eat more lean protein and veggies and less rice
  • Avoid fried egg rolls, wontons, and extras
  • Soups are generally healthy-egg drop, wonton, hot and sour

Japanese

  • Avoid sushi or veggies that are fried (tempura), has cream cheese or lots of creamy sauces
  • Sushi with fish, tofu, shrimp and veggies/avocado is a great choice
  • Pair a roll with edamame (soy beans) and a salad
  • Miso soup is good, but high in sodium

Indian

  • Really watch portions here since it can be heavy in coconut milk, ghee, or other added fats
  • Fill up on salad and basic veggies
  • Enjoy the curries and other dishes in small amounts with steamed rice or Naan/other bread

American

  • Choose chicken, turkey, or seafood if you eat meat and keep portions small
  • Have lots of vegetables
  • Avoid fried foods or other heavy foods, or keep portions very small

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