7 Tips for Making Healthier Choices When Eating Out

4/5/2012

Find yourself eating out…a lot? You're not alone. Americans are consuming more meals outside of the home. Fast, full service and carry-out foods account for approximately one-third of our daily calories and half of our total food expenses. While it may be convenient, eating out can come with a price that affects more than just our wallets. Restaurant foods give us more than our fill of calories and can tip the scales towards poor nutrition.

"When it comes to eating healthy, home cooked foods are often the better choice," says Silvia Veri, R.D., nutrition supervisor, Beaumont Weight Control Center. " We can control the method foods are prepared and how much sodium and fat are added. However, there are still plenty of ways we can eat healthier while eating out."

Easy tips to follow when eating out:

  1. Downsize portion sizes. Many foods are bigger and contain more than twice as many calories today as they did 20 years ago. Shave off calories by ordering a "small" or "kid's size" item instead of a "large" the next time you're out. Split the main course with a friend, take half home for another meal or try ordering a healthy appetizer as your entrée.
  2. Choose a better beverage. Popular drinks such as pop, juice or coffee are loaded with extra calories and can contain up to 16 teaspoons of sugar in a single portion. Skip these drinks and choose water or green tea instead.
  3. Build a better breakfast. Start the day off right by eating a healthy breakfast. Trade your bacon and sausage for leaner meats such as Canadian bacon, turkey or vegetarian protein (such as beans, legumes and soy products). By doing so, you'll eat less throughout the day.
  4. Skip the dip. Eating raw vegetables and salad are great as long as you don't drown them in high- calorie dressings and dips. Order dressings on the side so you control the portions.
  5. Pass the bread. Polishing off the bread basket can add 300 or more calories to your meal before you've even ordered. Try nibbling on just one slice of whole-grain bread or better yet, order a salad or broth based vegetable soup as the start of your meal to help fill up on fewer calories.
  6. Read the labels. Many fast an full-service restaurants provide calorie an nutrition information for their menu items. Ask for a copy.
  7. Get moving. If you know you're going out for a big meal, balance the extra calories with and extra long workout before you eat.

Beaumont Weight Control Center offers a number of weight loss classes including healthy cooking and nutrition education. Each session is designed to teach participants how to make healthy eating decisions. Cost is $25. Classes are held the second Tuesday of each month from 6 to 7 p.m. To sign up, call 248-655-5900 or register online.