Eating Out and Eating Right

eating-out-family-funnyWith so many busy schedules within the family, it’s not always easy to put homemade meals on the table. People are looking for fast, tasty and healthy food. The good news is, just because you are not cooking the food yourself, doesn’t mean your family won’t get the nutrition they need. There are many healthy options, and most are in your favorite spots. When time is of the essence to make it to the next basketball practice or school play rehearsal, it is common to grab a fast meal. Whether it’s take-out, the grocery stores’ “pre-made” section, or a restaurant, it is possible to feed your family healthy food.

Go to HealthyDiningFinder and type in your zip code, and review a variety of restaurants in your area that have healthier foods on their menu.

The Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics has proclaimed the month of March as “National Nutrition” month. They have a wonderful website and while browsing through we found a list of tips to help you avoid many of the common pitfalls of eating out. We did alter some of the ingredients to fit Naturally Nourishing’s views, but you may view the original at 


1. Think ahead and plan where you will eat. Consider what meal options are available. Look for restaurants or carry-out with a wide range of menu items.


2. Take time to look over the menu and make careful selections. Some restaurant menus may have a special section for “healthier” choices.


3. Read restaurant menus carefully for clues to fat and calorie content. Menu terms that can mean less fat and calories: baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted, and steamed.


4. Menu terms that can mean more fat and calories are, batter-fried, pan-fried, buttered, creamed, crispy, and breaded. Choose these foods only occasionally and in small portions.


5. Order the regular or child-size portion. Mega-sized servings are probably more than you need. For a lighter meal, order an appetizer in place of a main course.


6. It’s OK to make special requests, just keep them simple. For example, ask for a baked potato or side salad in place of French fries; no mayonnaise or bacon on your sandwich; sauces served on the side.


7. Hunger can drive you to eat too much bread before your meal arrives. Hold the bread or chips until your meal is served. Out of sight, out of mind.


8. Think about your food choices for the entire day. If you’re planning a special restaurant meal in the evening, have a light breakfast and lunch.


9. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. No more than one drink for women and two for men. Alcohol tends to increase your appetite and provides calories without any nutrients.


10. Are you tempted by the sweet, creamy desserts? Order one dessert with enough forks for everyone at the table to have a bite. Or ask your waitress to have it cut in half and take the other 1/2 home with you for another day.


11. Split your order. Share an extra-large sandwich or main course with a friend or take half home for another meal.


12. Boost the nutrition in all types of sandwiches by adding tomato, lettuce, peppers or other vegetables.

13. A baked potato offers more fiber, fewer calories and less fat than fries if you skip the sour cream and butter. Top your potato with broccoli and a sprinkle of cheese or salsa.


14. At the sandwich shop, choose lean beef, turkey or chicken on whole grain bread. Ask for mustard, ketchup, salsa or low-fat spreads. And, don’t forget the veggies.


15. In place of fries or chips, choose a side salad, fruit or baked sweet potato.


16. Enjoy ethnic foods such as Chinese stir-fry, vegetable-stuffed pita or Mexican fajitas. Go easy on the sour cream, cheese and guacamole. Make sure you ask them not to use MSG.


17. At the salad bar, pile on the dark leafy greens, carrots, peppers and other fresh vegetables. Lighten up on mayonnaise-based salads and high-fat toppings. Better yet, bring your own dressing with you in a small container. Enjoy fresh fruit as your dessert.


18. Eat your lower-calorie food first. Soup or salad is a good choice. Follow up with a light main course.


19. Ask for sauces, dressings and toppings to be put “on the side.” Then you control how much you eat.


20. Pass up all-you-can-eat specials, buffets and unlimited salad bars if you tend to eat too much.


21. If you do choose the buffet, fill up on salads and vegetables first. Take no more than two trips and use the small plate that holds less food.


22. Load up your pizza with vegetable toppings. If you add meat, make it lean chicken or shrimp.


23. Look for a sandwich wrap in a soft tortilla (vegetable is best). Fillings such as rice mixed with seafood, chicken, or grilled vegetables are usually lower in fat and calories.


24. Build a better breakfast sandwich: replace bacon or sausage with Canadian bacon or ham and order your sandwich on a whole grain English muffin or bagel.


25. Be size-wise about muffins, bagels, croissants and biscuits. A jumbo muffin has more than twice the fat and calories of the regular size.


26. Try a smoothie made with juice, fruit and yogurt for a light lunch or snack.


27. Refrigerate carry-out or leftovers if the food won’t be eaten right away. Toss foods kept at room temperature for more than two hours.


28. Grabbing dinner at the supermarket deli? Select rotisserie chicken, salad-in-a-bag and freshly baked bread. Or, try sliced lean roast beef, salad, and fresh fruit.


29. Always eating on the go? Tuck portable, nonperishable foods in your purse, tote, briefcase or backpack for an on-the-run meal. Some suggestions are peanut butter and crackers, granola bars, a piece of fresh fruit, trail mix, single serve packages of whole grain cereal or crackers.


30. For desk-top dining, keep single-serve packages of crackers, fruit, peanut butter, soup, or tuna in your desk for a quick lunch.

This list was:

Authored by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics staff registered dietitians.

Source: Finding Your Way to a Healthier You, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U. S. Department of Agriculture.



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