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Eating Out

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Eating at a restaurant does not have to sabotage a healthy diet.   Do I throw my Tap & Track out the window and just let loose when I decide to eat out?  No way!  I’ve worked to hard to let that happen.  I plan ahead, do my research, and make sure that even though I eat out, I will exactly hit my caloires, protein, carbs, and fat for the day!  Use smart-eating strategies: plan ahead, consider the menu and choose foods carefully to keep you on your plan.

Preparation

  • Have a plan. If I’m going to a restaurant that I am unfamiliar with the menu, I put in some effort and research the restaurants to find the healthiest options so I’m not forced into a corner when I get there.  Most restaurants post their nutritional info on line, and you can look ahead of time at the menu choices to find something that will fit in your daily plan.  Will it be chips and queso?  NO!  But you can still eat out and enjoy yourself without feeling guilty afterwards!
  • Knowing menu terms and cooking basics makes ordering easier, especially if you need to control calories, fat and other nutrients.  Look for foods that are steamed, broiled, baked or grilled, and limit fried and sautéed items or foods described as “crispy,” “rich” or “au gratin.”

Choosing a Restaurant

  • Think ahead. Consider meal options at different restaurants and look for places with a wide range of menu items.  A few of the restuarants that I like to take my family is Jason’s Deli and Moe’s Southwestern Restuarant.  Jason’s Deli is the only restuarant chain in the country that is nitrite/nitrate free and there food does not contain hydrogenated oils or trans fats.  They have also eliminated high fructose corn syrup from all of the food items.  The salad bar is GREAT and provides many organic choices.  CLICK HERE for nutritional info for Jason’s Deli.  Moe’s is another of my favorites. (Similar to Qdoba and Chipotle)  I like to order a bowl, minus the wrap, although they do ofter whole grain wraps.  I choice tofu and healthy ingredients, such as brown rice, black beans and fresh toppings.  It runs less than 500 calories and tastes great.  CLICK HERE for Moe’s nutritional info.

Ordering

  • Balance your meal by including foods from all the different food groups: meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grains.  Look for freshly made entrée salads that give you “balance in a bowl.”  For example, entrée salads with chicken, cheese or almonds provide protein along with fiber and vitamins.  If you are counting calories, use a low-fat dressing or skip some of the extras, like croutons.
  • For sandwich toppings, go with low-fat options like lettuce, tomato and onion; use mustard, other condiments like ketchup are loaded with high frutose corn syrup and sugar; and low-fat for fat-free dressings.
  • Round out your meal by ordering healthy side dishes, such as a side salad with low-fat or fat-free dressing, baked potato ( ask for a sweet potato, first) or fruit. Boost the nutritional value of your baked potato by topping it with vegetables or salsa.  Especially fresh salsa is low in calories and adds alot in the way of flavor.
  • Substitute. Ask for a side salad with low-fat dressing to replace fries in a combination meal.
  • Many restaurants honor requests, so don’t be afraid to be assertive, ask menu questions and make special requests to meet your nutritional needs.
  • Many restaurants serve huge portions, sometimes enough for two or three people.  Order menu items that contain fewer calories and eat a smaller portion. Bring leftovers home for another meal.  I routinely as for the smallest steak, usually 6 to 9 ounces.

Eating

  • Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry.  Fast eaters often are overeaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and are still satisfied.

Eating Out with Kids

  • Choose a restaurant that caters to children and has a healthy children’s menu that includes smaller portion sizes and meals designed to provide ample nourishment for smaller bodies.  Again, Jason’s Deli is a great choice for kids meals.
  • For kids’ meals, opt for milk as a beverage and fruit for dessert.
  • Order kids plain foods with sauce on the side.
  • Substitute healthier “sides” in place of fries, like carrots or apple slices.  Many restuarants now offer fruit as a side on kids meals.
  • Choose two or three suitable menu items, then let your child pick one.
  • Let kids order their familiar favorites when they eat out.  For new foods, offer a bite or two from your order.
  • Calcium is important at all ages, but especially for growing bones. To get more calcium, drink low-fat or fat-free white or chocolate milk or add a slice of cheese to their sandwich.

Restaurants may be intimidating to people trying to stick to a healthy diet, but with preparation and confidence, you can enjoy your restaurant meal without abandoning healthy eating.  Eating at home is always safer, but if you are willing to plan ahead and resist the temptations while at the restaurant, you can survive eating out without the guilt and without the extra pounds that often plague those who eat out!

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