Healthy Eating/Wellness: Tips for Healthy Eating Out
We are eating out more than ever and consuming more calories when we do. It is generally healthier to have mostly home-prepared meals and it is suggested to keep meals eaten out to three per week. Below are ideas for healthy dining out.
- No matter where you’re eating, practice eating small portions. Take half the meal home, split it with your friend, or order an appetizer as a main course. How about a senior meal?
- Pay attention to the descriptions on the menu. Items labeled deep-fried, pan-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, au gratin or in cream sauce are usually high in calories, unhealthy fats or sodium.
- Get alternatives to fries and onion rings. Order a side salad or baked potato. Large fries can be at least 500 calories a serving!
- Be sure to limit the sauces. There are alot of hidden calories in mayonnaise, sour cream, salad dressing and other sauces. Use a small amount or leave them out all together.
- Eat a little less at noon to save for a special dinner later, but don’t skip meals. This can lead to eating too much and it may help to eat a small snack 30 minutes before your meal to help be in better control of your choices
- Buffets and all-you-can-eat specials almost always lead to overeating.
- Go for the regular size. It may seem like a good “value” but there are lots of extra calories and fats in those super-sized portions.
- Drink water with your meal. Soda is a huge source of hidden calories. One 32-oz Big Gulp with regular cola has about 425 calories, so one Big Gulp can quickly gulp up a big portion of your daily calorie intake. Try adding a little lemon to your water or ordering unsweetened iced tea.
- Avoid croissants, biscuits, potpies, quiches, and pastries. Pick hard rolls, bread sticks (if not brushed with butter), French bread, or whole-wheat buns.
- You can special order. Many menu items would be healthy if it weren't for the way they were prepared. Ask for your vegetables and main dishes to be served without the sauces. Ask for olive oil and vinegar for your salads or order the dressing "on the side" and spoon only a small amount on at a time. If your food is fried or cooked in oil or butter, ask to have it broiled or steamed.
- Take time to enjoy the meal and eat mindfully. Pay attention to what you eat and savor each bite. Chew your food more thoroughly and avoid eating on the run. Being mindful also means stopping before you are full. It takes time for our bodies to realize that we have eaten. Mindful eating relaxes you, so you digest better, and makes you feel more satisfied.
- Don’t forget to count alcohol calories as part of our eating. That mixed drink or 2 to 3 glasses of wine add to the calories when eating out. Alcohol can be a strong trigger to making poor food choices and eating more than we planned.
What to Order When You’re Eating Out
You can find nutrition facts information for many restaurant items online.
- Trim the fat from broiled meat and order without sauces or gravy.
- A filet, flank, or London broil steak is the leanest cut.
- Many menu items can be made to order. Request no oil (ask for broth or stock instead) or ask for only a small amount of oil.
- Choose items with large portions of vegetables.
- Avoid wontons, egg rolls, sweet and sour choices, fried rice, fried dumplings, sesame noodles, egg foo young, and tempura.
- Pasta with red sauce (marinara, red clam, or Marsala) is a great choice unless the sauce has high fat meat such as sausage.
- Avoid cream sauces such as Alfredo or butter sauce as well as parmigiana, beef lasagna, cheese sauce or filling, pesto, carbonara, sausage dishes and garlic bread.
- Thin crust pizzas can have much less calories than thick crust.
- Ask for extra vegetables to replace the meat on pizza.
- You can request half of the cheese as well.
- Chicken fajitas, tortillas and Spanish rice without sour cream and guacamole are often good choices.
- Go easy on chips and rich/fried items on the menu such as chili rellanos, nachos, chorizo, chimichangas, flautas, and taco bowl salads.
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The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/17/2012
Copyright © 10/12/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#203
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