Tips for Healthy Eating While Dining Out

The Western diet of fast food, pour from a can or out of a box, heat and serve, grab and go is slowly killing us. All of those choices are of little value to your body’s health. They come at a high price in calories but in exchange for low nutritional value.

The term “Fast Food” is commonly associated with hamburgers, greasy French fries, and cola. However, popular family restaurant menu items can be ordered “to go” without waiting for their preparation or standing in a long line. You can even pay with a credit card over the phone if you’re in a real hurry. But, fast food does not have to be high-calorie and a low nutritional food choice.

Tips to help you choose well:

  • Know that an average fast-food meal can run as high as 1800 calories or more.
  • Know the nutritional value of the foods you order. Sometimes “good choices”, are higher in the nutrients or calories. Fat-free or low-fat items are usually higher in sugar and salt.
  • If you're having fast-food for one meal, make all the other meals that day contain the right portion of lean protein, produce, and healthy fats.
  • Know how your food is cooked. Chicken and fish can be good choices - but not if they are breaded and deep fried.
  • Avoid jumbo, giant, deluxe, biggie-sized or super-sized. Larger portions mean more calories, fat, sugar and salt.

When Dining Out...

Tempting menus, extra-large portions and festive atmospheres make it easy to overlook supportive eating. You'll begin to pack on pounds if you make poor choices a habit. It is possible to enjoy yourself and still make supportive choices. Following a few simple rules when eating out can make it possible to maintain your nutrition plan.

  1. Order food to go – Studies show that people tend to consume more food when they are not eating at their own kitchen tables. Take home and have the option of providing a healthier side dish such as fruit or vegetables.
  2. KNOW where you will go and what you will eat ahead of time.
  3. Avoid buffets – they are invitations to OVEREATING.
  4. CHOOSE wisely - use the guidelines of Supportive Menu Design.
  5. Ask the server not to bring the bread basket.
  6. ASK how food is prepared – ask for baked, broiled, roasted, poached or steamed.
  7. Don't be afraid to special order – ask for your vegetables and main dishes to be served without the sauces.
  8. Watch portion size – servings can be 3-5 times more than what you need. Pack half your meal to-go before starting.
  9. Split a meal with a friend. You’ll avoid the temptation to overeat.
  10. WATER - drink at least one full-glass of water before eating. You'll feel full sooner, you will eat less.
  11. Order an appetizer and a salad as your meal.
  12. Front load your meal with a nutritious salad or bowl of soup to take the edge off your appetite.
  13. Order sauce and dressing on the side – control calories and enjoy the taste.
  14. Order first. You're less likely to be influenced by the choices of your companions.
  15. Eat Slowly. Savor the flavors and textures of your food, and enjoy the company you're with. When you eat slowly, you give your body's internal clock the time it needs to know when you've had enough. Remember the hunger scale.
  16. Save dessert for later – a great trick to play is instead of ordering dessert at a restaurant, go somewhere else. By the time you get there, you will not be as hungry and will end up eating half or even skipping dessert entirely.

You can dine out while remaining true to your goals. The key is always to plan ahead, choose wisely and you'll find foods that fit into your meal plan.

To your best health,
Coach Nancy

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