Craving Chinese? Italian? How to Eat Healthfully When Dining Out

“Super-size me,” “2-for-1 special,” and “all-you-can-eat” are phrases practically guaranteed to make you overeat when you eat out. And that’s often these days. On a typical day in the U.S., nearly half of all adults eat a restaurant meal. That’s four a week for the average American.

Today, restaurant foods?whether “to go” or “for here”?are part of our everyday fast-paced, convenience-driven lives. The problem is, we still treat eating out as a special occasion?ordering foods we wouldn’t ordinarily choose and eating more of them. This has gotten us into trouble.

Nutrition researchers at the University of Memphis found that women who ate out six to 13 times a week ate about 300 more calories, 19 more grams of fat and 400 more milligrams of sodium a day than women who ate out five times a week on average. And a phone survey to observe trends in fruit and vegetable intake over the years found that Californians who dined out ate up to 25% fewer fruits and vegetables than those whose food was prepared mainly at home.

Is the solution to forgo restaurant meals and eat exclusively at home? That’s not realistic. Instead, put the following 10 tips into action. Then check out EN‘s suggestions for popular ethnic cuisines.

10 Keys to Healthful Eating Out

1.Think positively. Instead of rationalizing that restaurant meals don’t count, make an attitude adjustment. Commit to ordering healthful meals.
2.Cut back and trade up. The more often you eat out, the more difficult it is to eat healthfully. To cut back, entertain home alternatives. Try a bowl of cereal or bagel and banana in the morning to avoid a grab-and-eat, high-fat fast-food breakfast. Or order something more healthful for lunch: Swap mayo-drenched tuna salad on a croissant for turkey with mustard and tomato on whole-grain bread.
3.Zero in on offenders. Reconsider the cadre of restaurants where you regularly dine. If they often lead you astray, find new ones.
4.Stick to your game plan. Contemplate what you?ll order beforehand. Don’t let your eyes rule your stomach.
5.Become an avid fat detective. Watch out for fat that greets you at the table?whether it’s butter for the rolls, chips with the salsa or crisp Chinese noodles. Scan the menu for high-fat ingredients to avoid, such as cheese, cream, butter, oil, high-fat meats and sausage.
6.Let the food pyramid guide you. Many restaurant meals turn the food pyramid upside down?heavy on the protein, fat and sweets, but light on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Run your menu choices through a mental pyramid checklist: grains? vegetables? fruit? no more than three to four ounces of meat? only a little fat and sugar?
7.Practice portion control from the get-go. To eat less, order less. Decipher menu descriptors that shout “large”?jumbo, supreme, king-size, double or triple?and search out those that that whisper “small”?regular, small, single, appetizer, children’s portion. Don’t be tempted by offers that tout more food for less money. Share menu items with a dining partner.
8.Be creative. Outsmart the menu. Order from appetizers, soups, salads, ? la carte items and side dishes, rather than entr?es.
9.Get foods made to order. Feel comfortable making special requests?it’s your right. For example, ask to substitute a baked potato for potato chips; request mustard instead of mayonnaise and just a little salad dressing on the side.
10.Know when enough is enough. When full, push your plate away, even if a few bites remain. If you know your meal will be too large, request a take-out container when you order.
FResist those tasty crisp noodles; they?re high in fat.
FOrder fewer dishes than the number of people at the table; eat family style.
FStart with soup to fill you up; skip high-fat appetizers like egg rolls; select entrees with plenty of vegetables; opt for steamed rice, not fried.
FSteer clear of menu items described as “deep-fried,” “crispy,” “golden brown” or “sweet and sour.”
More Healthful Picks:
JMoo Goo Gai Pan
JMoo Shi (vegetables, chicken, shrimp)
JYu Hsiang (chicken or shrimp)
JVegetarian’s Delight
JSzechuan green beans
JSzechuan style bean curd with vegetables (request steamed or broiled)
JLo-Mein (vegetables, chicken or shrimp)
Pizza and Pasta
FThe deeper the pizza crust, the more calories. Opt for thin crust.
FSplit and share. One order of pasta is often enough for two. Two slices of pizza is plenty. Fill up with a salad.
More Healthful Picks:
JSauces to top pasta: Bolognese, marinara, primavera, red or white clam sauce. Steer clear of high-fat sauces with cream, butter, oil, cheese, sausage or bacon (pancetta).
JTop pizza with: black olives, broccoli, garlic, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, roasted red peppers, spinach, fresh tomato slices or grilled chicken. Steer clear of extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage.
FBypass dishes labeled “grande,” “supreme,” “double” and “combo plate.”
FForget fried items like tortilla chips, salads served in fried tortilla shells and chimichangas.
FTake advantage of more healthful side dishes, such as black beans, soft tortillas, Mexican rice.
FSelect beans over beef or cheese. Request black beans instead of refried beans. Request to “hold the sour cream.”
FUse plenty of salsa and chilies to add zing with zero fat.
More Healthful Picks:
JSoft tacos
JArroz con pollo (rice with chicken)
FDodge appetizers; most are fried. Order lentil or mulligatawny soup.
FSkip bread that’s fried or soaked in fat, such as: papadum, chapati, nan, kulcha or roti.
FOrder side dishes with vegetables, beans or peas, such as dahl or chutney.
More Healthful Picks:
JMasala, bhuna, vindaloo (chicken, shrimp, fish)
JSaag or saag paneer (with spinach)
JChicken tandoori or tikka (baked in clay oven)
JBiryani (rice dish with bits of vegetables, fruit, nuts or meats)
JVegetable curry
JAloo chole (chick peas, tomatoes and potatoes)
FOrder a broth-based soup appetizer.
FChoose entrees that are saut?ed, stir-fried, grilled or steamed. Steer clear of fried, deep-fried or “crispy.”
FGo light on dishes with coconut milk.
FRequest items be served with steamed rice, not fried.
More Healthful Picks:
JThai salad
JBasil, chili or ginger dishes
JSeafood, chicken, pork or beef dishes made with lots of vegetables
JTofu (not fried) and vegetables


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