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Eat Out but Eat Healthy(1)

Por Lic. Nina Nazor Robles* -

Do you have difficulty following a healthy meal plan when you eat out?

Many of us depend on restaurants for at least some of our meals. You can eat healthy meals even at fast food restaurants if you follow some simple tips. Many restaurants offer low-fat, low-cholesterol, and low-sugar dishes. Before you leave the house, think about what you can have to eat a healthy meal. When traveling, stop at restaurants with large menu selections. Only order what you can eat. If you don't get to choose the restaurant, then choose the healthiest items on the menu.

  • If you don't know how the dish is prepared and what side dishes come with it . . . ask!  Choose vegetables or fruit as your side dishes.
  • Eat the same amount of food that you eat at home. If the portion is too big, share it with someone or take it home.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Have fish, chicken, or meat, baked, grilled, or broiled, without additional butter or sauces.
  • Avoid fried potatoes. If you want potatoes as a side, have a baked potato. Top the potato with vegetables and add minimal butter or other high-fat condiments.
  • Find out how the restaurant prepares its sauces, salad dressings, and side dishes. Choose low-fat options.
  • Measure one teaspoon of dressing and add it to your salad. Don't use any more than that one teaspoon.
  • Fried foods absorb a lot of fat. Opt for baked, grilled, broiled items. If there are no alternatives, then remove the coating of the fried food.
  • Look for low-fat food options before you order. You can often convert your food into a delicious gastronomic adventure without excess calories.
  • Ask for sugar substitutes and low-fat dressings. Most restaurants and fast food chains offer these alternatives. If there aren’t low-fat or low-calorie options, ask for sugar or dressing on the side. This way, you can have the least amount possible. If the restaurant only offers fatty salad dressings, use a little vinegar or lemon juice to add flavor to your salad. Try vegetables instead of dressing. You can also use hot sauce to add some flavor.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. It adds more calories to your meal and provides you with no beneficial nutrients.
  • Before making restaurant reservations, ask what type of food they serve and if there are low-fat options.
  • Let the manger know if you enjoy one of the low fat dishes. This will encourage them to continue to offer low-fat items on the menu
  • The day you are going out, make sure you don't let yourself get too hungry, so that you don’t overeat at the restaurant.
  • Choose your meal carefully at a fast food restaurant. One meal can contain all of the calories you should have in an entire day.
  • If you've eaten fast food for one of your meals, balance out the rest of your day by eating vegetables and fresh fruits.
  • Stay away from items that say “extra big,” “jumbo,” “deluxe,” etc. This generally means more calories and fat.
  • Choose grilled or baked chicken, turkey, or tuna (in water) sandwiches.  
  • Don't add cheese to your meal. It adds an additional 100 calories per ounce.
  • If you choose a salad buffet, avoid going overboard on bacon bits, croutons, cheese, and nuts which are all high in calories.
  • If you go to a Mexican fast food restaurant, order burritos, tacos, fajitas, or other dishes that are not fried.
  • Don’t eat more than one or two slices of pizza. Choose the thin crust version without extra ingredients. The cheese and meat add a lot of calories and fat. The caloric content of a pizza can differ depending on how it is prepared. Choose the thin-dough pizzas and order vegetables toppings instead of meat.  
  • Go through a buffet only once. If the temptation is too great, choose from the menu. 
  • If you want dessert, try the fruit options. Remember that the dough in pies or cakes has tons of sugar and lots of fat.
  • You can try different dishes. Just don't exceed the recommended serving size. Try to choose the following options when you eat out.
    • Appetizer: tomato juice, non-fat chicken soup, raw vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh fish and seafood without fat
    • Eggs: boiled eggs (hard or soft) or poached eggs
    • Salads: vegetables dressed in cottage cheese, lemon juice, vinegar or low-fat dressing
    • Breads: Whole-wheat bread, soda crackers, or corn tortillas (not fried)
    • Cereals and vegetables: baked potatoes, steamed rice, or noodles (not fried)
    • Fat: margarine, olive oil, low-fat dressing. Margarine and oil have the same calories as the butter. Consume them in moderation.
    • Vegetables: raw, cooked, or baked
    • Meat, chicken, fish, or turkey: baked, grilled, or boiled. Ask for the sauce on the side.
    • Beverages: coffee, tea, or diet sodas

Eating out is sometimes a pleasure and other times a necessity. Try to enjoy your food in a healthy way to control your weight and maintain an adequate diet.

*Dietitian with the MyDiet™ Team


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