According to the United States Healthful Food Council, the average American adult buys a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times a week and more than 30 percent of children eat fast food on any given day. With Americans dining out so often, it’s important that healthy food choices are made whenever possible to reduce total calories, fat and sodium. Listed below are some ways you can be restaurant savvy during your next visit.
- When ordering, ask that your main course (and sides) not be salted and that added oils are not used.
- If a main course comes with a sauce, ask that it be served on the side so that you can control the amount you use.
- Not only substitute steamed vegetables for other sides, but ask for a double portion.
- Look up nutritional counts online prior to visiting the restaurant to find the healthiest selections; you’ll be surprised what you find.
- Skip dessert or share a small portion with a friend; some deserts have as many calories as the main course.
- Select a restaurant that prepares your meal when you order so you individualize your food according to your dietary needs.
- Look for foods that are baked, broiled or grilled; skip the cheesy, fried and breaded options.
- Shrimp cocktail is one of the healthiest appetizers (or main dish paired with a salad) you can order.
- If you don’t see a healthy option on the menu, ask your server if the chef can make what you’d like.
- Ask that the bread basket not be served to reduce excess calories, sodium and fat prior to your meal.
- Order salad dressing on the side; dip your fork tongs in the dressing and then spear your greens.
- If your item comes with a bun, ask the server for a large lettuce leaf instead (or sub half); you’ll cut back on calories and sodium.
- Order a lunch-sided entree or ask for a to-go box when you receive your meal to cut down on portion sizes.
- Skip the calorie-laden beverages and stick with water- this saves on your pocketbook too.
- Don’t skip meals prior to dining out thinking you’ll save calories, you’ll just end up arriving hungry and overeating.
- Eating breakfast out? Ordering an egg (or two) with dry toast and fruit is one of the best menu choices you can make.
Source: Julie Holbrook MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian at the Centegra Healthy Living Institute.
If you’d like to learn more about heart healthy eating, including even more tips to eating healthy when dining out, schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian at the Centegra Healthy Living Institute by calling 877-CENTEGRA (236-8347).