Dining out can be a real challenge if you want
or need to watch your fat and calorie intake. Most people can manage to
control their food choices at home. But when they eat out with friends
or family, they either let their defenses down or lose their resolve.
Restaurant-size portions, heavy sauces and tempting desserts are just
a few of the problems that jump out when you open the menu. But dining
out doesn't have to be stressful. You can still have an enjoyable and
tasty experience by using the following healthy food choice strategies
to help you make healthy food choices away from home:
Decode the menu
- Order salad dressings and other sauces on the side. Then, just add a small amount when you need to. That way you'll avoid a lot of extra fat and calories.
- Ask for special low-calorie or low-fat preparation of a menu item. More and more restaurants are offering these options.
- Ask the server to remove bread or chips from the table if they are too tempting.
- Choose tomato-based pasta sauces. Marinara or tomato and basil, for instance, are much lower in fat than cream-based sauces such as Alfredo and vodka.
- Apply the same rule to soups. Order tomato- or broth-based soups. They are much lower in calories than those made with cream.
- Choose items that are baked, grilled, broiled, poached or steamed. These items typically will have less fat and fewer calories.
- Beware of dishes described as fried, creamed, au gratin, Parmesan, escalloped or marinated in oil. They are typically much higher in fat and calories.
- Share an appetizer. You don't need to fill up before the main course.
- Try having an appetizer and a salad as your main meal. This is often enough food for one sitting.
- Share a dessert with a friend or two. Usually a little taste is all you need.
- Pay attention to your body's signals and stop eating when you are full.
- Love your leftovers. Don't want to waste the food? Save leftovers for tomorrow's lunch or dinner.
- Don't go to the restaurant famished. It's fine to build up a good appetite. But you don't want to be so hungry that you gobble up everything in sight.
- Fill up on broth-based soup, not bread. Soup can serve as a
great appetizer. When paired with a salad, it can work as an entree.
Soup is filling and typically lower in calories.
- See if your restaurant has an online menu. Checking out the
menu ahead of time gives you time to plan your choices. Some restaurants
even post how many calories are in a dish.
- Remember, alcohol counts. Don't forget to factor in your
calories from alcohol. They can add up quickly. Drinking can also weaken
your resolve. If you choose to drink, stick with just one beer, glass
of wine or non-sugary liquor drink to keep calories at bay.
- Order steamed vegetables or a baked potato to replace fries or mashed potatoes.
- Ask for salsa on a baked potato instead of sour cream, butter, cheese or bacon. Salsa adds a lot of flavor for a fraction of the calories.
- If available, choose whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice or oatmeal over their refined counterparts.
- Order sandwiches with mustard rather than mayonnaise. Mustard adds flavor but has no fat and very few calories.
- Drink water, unsweetened tea or coffee. Regular soda and sweetened drinks can add at least 200 calories or more.
- Choose berries or other fresh fruit or sorbet for dessert instead of high-fat cakes or ice cream.