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Eating Well When Eating Out


There is nothing like home cooking! Except when you have had a long day, need a break, or haven’t gotten to the store in a while. Then, there is nothing like eating out! But how do you eat well when eating out? If you’ve been eating a healthy diet and eating at home regularly, you don’t want to take two steps backward by eating a meal that is loaded with saturated fats, salt, and/or sugar, common ingredients in restaurant foods. But there are choices you can make to enjoy a meal out and still keep your goal to eat well. To do this, keep in mind the way your food will be prepared, the amount of food you eat, and the extras.

The way your food will be prepared: Many meals go from healthy to not in the preparation process. Chicken, vegetables, and grains are great. Fried chicken, vegetables covered in cream sauce, and grains loaded with butter and salt are not. On the menu, look for words such as broiled, roasted, and baked, rather than fried or sauteed. Ask to limit the amount of butter and salt if possible. If your dish has a dressing or sauce, see if you can get it on the side, so you can control the amount you eat. If choosing fast food for a quick meal, a grilled chicken sandwich or salad (dressing on the side) is usually a good bet.

The amount of food you eat: Most restaurants provide servings that are well beyond recommended serving sizes. Consider asking for a to-go container with your meal, so you can package half before eating. Try to picture this meal at home: would your plate look like this? Would this be the amount you would eat? You can always ask for a smaller plate, like a salad plate, and put the amount you plan to eat on the smaller plate. This can trick the eye and stomach into feeling satisfied!

The extras: Sometimes the meal is healthy, but the extras get us: the drinks you order, the soup or salad that comes with dinner, the breadbasket, and the dessert. Decide before you sit down what extras you will order and stick to it. Kindly ask the waitstaff to remove the bread basket if it’s too tempting, and you can ask for the check with your meal so dessert isn’t even offered. Avoid soda pop and other high-calorie drinks.

Sometimes eating out is a celebration or special occasion. Don’t let guilt about eating too much keep you from enjoying the evening and the food. An occasional indulgence is completely fine! As long as we are eating well most of the time, we will feel good and enjoy our best health.