Americans eat out more than ever. Both husbands and wives work, and then often in the evening have to take the kids to extracurricular activities such as soccer, dance, taekwondo, etc., leaving with little time for food preparation at home. Meal preparation is a lost art. According to a recent survey, 28% of Americans don’t know how to cook.
Research shows that we consume more fat, sodium and calories when eating away from home. Although maintaining good nutrition while eating out is challenging, it can be accomplished. Below are some tips to help salvage your diet while dining away from home.
Fast Foods Chains
Fast foods typically supply a generous helping of fat, calories and sodium for the minimal amount of nutrients contributed. However, most fast food establishments now offer a few healthy alternatives such as salad bars, baked potatoes, roasted or grilled chicken sandwiches, apple slices, parfaits and skim milk.
Tips for eating fast:
1. Choose charbroiled, grilled or roasted sandwiches instead of fried.
2. Get lettuce, tomato, mustard, ketchup, relish and/ or onion on your sandwich and hold the mayo to reduce calories.
3. Try just a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger.
4. Order a regular hamburger instead of a jumbo.
5. Avoid adding cheese and fatty dressings to salads.
6. Dress up your baked potato with salsa, low-fat butter substitute, or pepper, rather than margarine, sour cream or cheese.
7. Drink skim milk, juice or water as a beverage, instead of whole milk, milk shakes or sugary drinks.
8. Have thin-crust pizza plain or with vegetables. If you want meat, try Canadian bacon or ham instead of pepperoni, sausage or hamburger. Eat in moderation, as it will still be high in sodium.
9. Think “protein power” at lunch. Protein makes you feel full faster, and won’t give you that afternoon letdown that you get with a high-carbohydrate, high-fat meal.
Dining in a restaurant does not mean that you must surrender yourself to rich, high-fat foods. With a little planning and foresight you can eat out and healthy too.
Plan ahead and choose your restaurant wisely. Check restaurant menus on the Internet to see which ones offer plenty of healthy choices. But take caution – healthy is often in the eye of the beholder! Whereas some people may be satisfied with an item that is low in fat and calories, if that item happens to be high in sodium and you have high blood pressure, then it is not “healthy” for you. See if nutrition information is provided so you can make this determination. And at all costs avoid buffets! You’ll want to “get your money’s worth,” meaning you will probably consume many more calories than you need!
- Choose broiled, baked, steamed or poached instead of fried, au gratin or scalloped foods.
- Request that gravies, salad dressings, toppings and sauces be omitted or served on the side, so you decide how much to use.
- Choose regular bread or buns, bread sticks, English muffins, or bagels, rather than biscuits, cornbread, or croissants.
- Ask fo (or bring your own) diet dressing and low-fat butter substitute (e.g. Butter Buds, Molly McButter)
- Choose meals with fruit & vegetables as main foods.
- Skip the appetizer and bread/chip basket (the average basket contains about 1,000 calories).
- As a customer you have the right to question how items are prepared, and even request modifications in the preparation when feasible.
- Restaurants generally serve about twice what a regular serving size should be, so:
- Split an order with a friend.
- Eat half your meal and have the remainder put in a to-go box; or, if you feel you may be tempted to eat it all, have half put aside in a to-go container before it is served.
- Order smaller items, such as an appetizer (if there is one that is “healthy”) and/or side dishes of vegetables (not prepared in fat), rather than an entree.
Eating out with friends and family can be very pleasurable. And with just a little planning and forethought it can be healthy too!