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Dining out can present challenges for all of us, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming! After all, eating out is supposed to be fun! With this helpful guide, you can learn how to make the smartest menu choices, control your portion sizes, and spot the secret “code words” for high-fat! Dining out can be not only delicious and fun, but something you feel good about after the great meal! Use this guide before you head out to your favorite restaurant and walk in with confidence! Bon Appetit!

General Tips

  • Planning ahead
    • Like grocery shopping…never arrive hungry!
    • Choose restaurants that offer healthy choices.  Many restaurants show their menu along with nutrition facts online.  Or, call ahead of time and ask what they serve and how flexible they are with substitutions and modifications.
    • Go with a game plan!  Think about what you want to order or decide to split an entrée ahead of time.  You will be less likely to be tempted by descriptions, sights or smells if you already have your mind made up.
  • Portion control
    • Try measuring food portions at home for a few days. You’ll be more likely to notice how big those super-sized portions are when eating out.
    • Know that most people finish what’s on their plate so the best way to control portions is to order less.
    • Decide what an acceptable portion is and put the rest away in the beginning.  You can do this by asking for a to-go box.  Then you can take your time and finish what is on your plate without feeling guilty or stuffed.
    • Eat slowly!  Put your fork down or take a sip of water between bites and enjoy great conversation.
    • If ordering family style, try getting one or two dishes fewer than the number of people at the table.  Always order a vegetable based dish and fill half your plate with veggies first.
    • If you’re faced with a buffet, take a small plate and use the picnic plate method.  Fill half your plate with fruits or veggies, ¼ with lean protein and ¼ with whole grains.  Scan the buffet first and tell yourself you can indulge in one favorite, take a small portion and savor!  And, make one trip only!
    • Choose an appetizer (a healthy one!) as a main course and add a side salad or broth based soup.
    • Or, order à la carte or share food with a companion.
  •  Order your way
    • Be creative and become involved in the process.  If you are not sure what is in a dish, ask!  Ask how meals are prepared and what ingredients are used and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Restaurants value your business and kitchen staffs are ready to meet your needs.
    • If your entrée comes with a sauce, ask to have it on the side or leave it off.  Do you see veggies or a low-fat sauce that you like but isn’t with your entrée?  That’s okay; ask that it be added to yours in place of the higher calorie or cream sauce option!
    • Request that stir-fried entrée be prepared with very little oil. 
    • Choose dishes that contain fruits or veggies and choose light dressing on the side.
  • Cue words
    • Skip dishes with multiple ingredients such as casseroles and go for single ingredient dishes instead.  Multiple ingredients signal even less control over what goes in your food and often mean more calories and fat.
    • Be aware of menu sections termed “light fare”, “light” or “fresh.”  “Light” may not necessarily mean lower in fat or calories.  Some items may be lower in fat but the portions are still way too large which means more calories.  And, many vegetarian dishes labeled “healthy” can still be high in calories from oils, nuts and cheese.
    • Watch out for hidden calories.  For example, butter is often added to hamburger buns, toast, pancakes, veggies, noodles and sometimes fish.  Also, grease is often used on the griddle to make some “grilled” items such as hashbrowns, hot sandwiches, eggs and pancakes.  Ask for yours to be prepared without butter or in a different manner altogether!
    • Words that signal high fat: flaky, fried, crispy, braised, creamy, rich, breaded, hollandaise, au gratin, cheese sauce, basted, casserole, prime, alfredo, batter-dipped, béarnaise, carbonara, croquette, fritters, parmigiana, tempura.
    • Words that signal high salt: smoked, barbequed, pickled, broth, teriyaki, marinated, soy sauce.
    • Words that signal low-fat: in its own juice, garden fresh, broiled, baked, smoked, grilled (chicken, fish, pork, beef), poached, roasted, steamed, flame-cooked.

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