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Healthy Dining Out

Cooking at home is great and offers the best opportunity to control what goes into your food. However, dining out regularly is a reality for most people with a hectic life.  You don’t have to blow off your goals for eating healthy just because a restaurant is preparing your meal.  ChooseMyPlate.gov offers the following tips for dining out.

Find out WHAT you are eating and drinking. 

  • Check for posted calories and nutrition information on the restaurant menu, menu board, the restaurant website or one of the many online food databases like Calorie King or MyFitnessPal.
  • When ordering your meal, keep the plate method in mind – ½ of the plate should contain fruits and vegetables, ¼ should contain lean protein and ¼ should contain whole grains.
  • Think about your drink.  Sugar-sweetened beverages are full of empty calories.  Skip the sodas, sweet tea and frozen drinks, and opt for water with lemon,   unsweetened tea or low-fat milk.
  • Skip dessert most of the time, but if you really want something sweet, look for the mini desserts offered at some restaurants or split a larger one with several people.

Figure out HOW MUCH you are eating and drinking. 

  • Avoid eating the oversized portions served at many restaurants.  Save money and split your meal with someone, box up half of your meal for later or order the smaller size if available.
  • Avoid ordering the all-you-can-eat buffet.  Unlimited access to food makes many people overeat because they want to “get their money’s worth.”
  • Remember, you can take this pocket size portion guidewith you to help you determine how much is in a true serving size.

Determine HOW your meal is prepared.  

  • Look for foods on the menu described as steamed, grilled or broiled and avoid foods that are fried or sautéed.  Foods higher in calories include those that are creamy, breaded, battered, or buttered.
  • Don’t forget that dressing, sauces and syrups can be very high in calories, fats, sodium and sugar.  Ask for these items on the side and only use as much as you need to give the food a little flavor.