By John Ruibal, Prowers Medical Center Dietitian
Eating healthy when eating out can be a big challenge when you are trying to stay on a healthy eating plan. The good news is many restaurants now provide nutrition information on their menus. The FDA will soon require chain restaurants with more than 20 stores to provide nutrition information on every item on the menu. The law was to take effect this past May but was delayed a year, so watch for it in 2018. This not only includes standalone restaurants but establishments that provide restaurant-style foods like grocery stores, convenience stores, bowling alleys and movie theaters.
In addition to reviewing nutrition information, follow these simple tips to make eating out a little healthier.
- When ordering, ask for a takeout container with your meal. Put half of your meal in the container when your food arrives. You not only reduce your calorie intake by half for your meal but you also stretch your dollars by having another meal to eat at a later time.
- Drink water with every meal and make it your beverage of choice. Or, opt for no calorie or low-calorie beverage choices, including unsweetened tea, black coffee, and flavored waters. The average 12-ounce soft drink has nine teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories—get a refill and you double those calories. Cutting out sugary drinks alone can help you control your weight.
- Look for low-fat cooking techniques when reading your menu. Terms like baked, broiled, and steamed are prepared with no or very limited fat.
- Avoid items that may be breaded, deep fried or sautéed. These cooking methods require additional fat in the form of lard or oils.
- Decrease or eliminate butter or margarine on bread. Each pat of butter or margarine contains five grams of fat and 45 calories.
- Order your salad dressing on the side. Use it sparingly, or simply dip you fork in the dressing then put the fork in your salad. You will get all the flavor of the dressing on your salad while eliminating substantial calories.
- If you order dessert, share with another diner, or if you’re dining alone simply ask for a small takeout container and take half home with you for the next day.
- Finish your dining experience with a leisurely stroll. Each mile of walking burns approximately 100 calories. Regular daily activity helps with weight control, muscle strength and stress management.
Eating out can be a great way to socialize and stay in touch with friends and loved ones. By following a few guidelines you can not only enjoy the dining experience but also stick with a healthy lifestyle. Small changes over time will become lifestyle changes that will help you maintain a healthy weight over the coming years.