May I please order…

Eating out and maintaining a healthy diet can be balanced. Here are some tips to dine-out healthy.

Eating out is a part of life for many people. It is a social event, a way to eat without having to cook and it is enjoyable. But with the large variety of fast food restaurants, there are endless choices of foods and food combinations, with many of them being unhealthy. So, how can you eat out and keep it healthy?

The restaurant business is a booming enterprise. There are new restaurants opening all of the time. They all have their own specific menus that they cook from featuring options you can select from. Below are some tips Michigan State University Extension suggests to assist in making healthy decisions when eating out.

  1. Plan ahead – Having a plan will help to deviate from roadblocks that can occur. Research the restaurant you will be eating at. Look for restaurants with low-fat choices and research their menus through the internet. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets, happy hours and fatty meals. Eat a small snack before you leave for the restaurant to curb you appetite, and consider ordering first when eating with a group.
  2. Ask for what you want – Don’t be shy to ask for food substitutions such as a baked potato instead of French fries. Ask for foods to be prepared a particular way, such as broiling fish instead of fried in butter or deep fried. Many restaurants will prepare foods that may not be on the menu. It does not hurt to ask if there are steamed vegetables available or grilled meats without added fats and sauces. You can also request smaller portions, share a dish with someone or take a doggie bag home.
  3. Take charge of what’s around you – Stay focused and in charge of what is around you. Do not let temptations pull you from your goals and what your needs are for making healthy choices. Be the first to order so that you will not be tempted by what others order. Keep extra foods such as peanuts, rolls and appetizers out of reach or off the table, if possible. Ask for half of your food to be put into a to-go container before it is brought to you, or to have your plate removed as soon as you are finished so that you will not be tempted to be a member of the “clean-plate club.”
  4. Choose foods carefully – Be cautious of sauces, ask for them on the side or not at all. How much food do you really need? Appetizers, dessert, extras before the main meal and drinks all add calories, so maybe it is a matter of deciding which one to have with your order. Trim visible fat and take off skin before eating your meal.

Eating out is a common experience for many people and can pose many challenges to healthy eating, but it can be done simultaneously. It requires planning, effective communication and careful food selection. Enjoy the times that you eat out by planning and making healthy choices.

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