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Eating Healthy While Eating Out

Picture-Healthy meal on a plate

It can be a challenge to maintain serving sizes and calorie limits when eating out.

Eating out can be a social activity, an answer for a quick meal or a special treat. Unfortunately, people who eat out often are more likely to be overweight or obese, especially if they are eating at fast food restaurants. If possible eating out should be kept for special occasions, especially if you are watching your weight. When you do eat out making better choices will help with keeping calories in check and getting the most nutrition out of your meal.

According to Choose My Plate there are three things to think about when eating out:

  1. What you are eating and drinking?
  2. How much you are eating and drinking?
  3. How your meal is prepared?

What are you eating and drinking?
If possible look up calories of menu choices before you go. Many restaurants are posting calories on their menus, in pamphlets or on their websites. If you don’t have time to look it up before you go, ask for the information when you get to the restaurant.

Make selections that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods. Try to incorporate something from each of the five food groups in your meal. If a meal comes with an option that is less healthy see if you can switch it for a healthier option, such as a baked potato instead of fries.

Drinks add calories to your meal too. Try to choose drinks that do not have added sugars such as water, fat-free milk or unsweetened tea. If you decide to have an alcoholic beverage choose one with less calories. Follow this link to a drink calorie chart.

Desserts are often a source of empty calories. Plan to eat dessert less often or share your dessert to keep calories down.

How much are you eating and drinking?
Many restaurants serve oversized portions which leads to eating and drinking more than one should. To combat oversized portions choose a smaller size option such as an appetizer, share your meal, or take half your meal home.

Buffets are another place many people consume too many calories. Order from the menu, if available, to save calories instead of heading to the buffet.

How is your meal prepared?
Dishes that are steamed, grilled or broiled will contain less calories than those that are fried or sautéed. Stay away from meal choices with descriptions that include words such as creamy, breaded, battered, or buttered. All these words equal extra calories.

Have your dressings, sauces and syrups served on the side so you can control how much you eat. These sides are often high in calories and should be eaten in moderation.

Next time you decide to eat out try to incorporate one or two of the suggestions above. You can eat out and stay within your calorie limits if you make better choices.

Resources: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/, http://www.webmd.com/

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