Eating healthy when dining out

It is possible to make healty choices when you’re away from home.

If you are trying to eat healthy foods you may find eating out a challenge. There are so many choices on the menu. How do you decide which are best for you? The National Diabetes Prevention Program and Michigan State University Extension have several tips for healthy eating when dining out.

One key strategy is to plan ahead. If you plan ahead you will be better able to handle difficult situations that may arise. For example, you could decide to eat at a restaurant that provides many healthy options on its menu. You could also eat a small, healthy snack before heading to the restaurant. That will keep you from being too hungry once you get there. Have you ever thought about deciding what you are going to order before you get to the restaurant? Doing so may help you avoid temptation when it comes time to look over the menu.

Another strategy is to ask for what you want when you order your food. We can sometimes be intimidated by a restaurant, a server or a menu. Intimidation might keep us from asking for a healthy alternative to what is on the menu. Restaurants want their diners to be satisfied and they are often open to making substitutions or changes, within reason. The key is to be friendly but firm when making your request.

Here are some things to consider if you want to order a healthier meal: Ask if they will substitute ketchup or mustard in place of mayonnaise; ask if you can have a tossed salad or extra steamed vegetable instead of French fries. You can also ask if they would prepare food in a different way. For example, would they bake or broil your fish instead of frying it? Can they serve the entrée with the sauce on the side, or leave the sauce off altogether? Consider asking for food that may not even be on the menu. For example, you might request a grilled chicken breast, steamed vegetables and baked potato, even if you don’t see such items listed.

Taking charge of what is around you is another strategy to try. When eating out we can be taken in by temptations offered by the restaurant or by the other diners who are with us. However, if we stay focused we can stay in control of what we order. One idea for staying in control is to be the first person to order. If you order first you will be less likely to be swayed by what someone else is ordering. Say no to the basket of chips, peanuts, rolls or other complementary foods that may be brought to the table. To avoid over-eating, you can ask that half of your meal be put in a doggy bag before it’s served.

Finally, you’ll want to choose your food carefully when eating out. There are so many choices! Appetizers, side dishes, entrees, salads, desserts, and beverages will tempt you. You may need to make compromises. Perhaps you have your heart set on ordering dessert. If that’s the case, you may want to forego an appetizer. Maybe the restaurant has excellent breads. If you want the bread you should probably skip a starchy side dish with your entrée. Opt for dishes that are not served with butter or cream sauces. Pick fresh fruit for dessert instead of rich, creamy and calorie-laden choices.

It is possible to eat healthy when eating out, if you strategize and take control!

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