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Dining Out- 5 Steps to stay healthy

With families busier than ever the sit down family meal may be becoming extinct. No surprise that there are nearly 200,000 "table side" restaurants in the United States today, and the number keeps growing. All of us love great service, good food and a great price but what many of us have gotten is an ever expanding waist line.

What we do know is that the foods you typically eat when dining out are nutritionally worse in every way than the food you eat at home. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, every meal away from home increases an adult's average daily calorie count by about 135 calories. This means eating out an average of five times a week may pack on an additional 10 pounds a year.

But there is good news. In the last several years most chain restaurants have started adding healthier options. These options, combined with a few smart choices and you can dine out and stay fit and trim.

English: Obesity is rising as we lose contact ...

Steps to eating healthy when dining out

1.    Speak up when dining out

As the consumer you may have options for how you would like something cooked when dining out. If it’s fried, don’t be afraid to ask for it to be grilled. If there are fries served with an entrée don’t be afraid to ask for a side of vegetables. If you order a salad be sure to ask for the dressing on the side. Many times the restaurant is more than happy to oblige a customer’s healthy requests.

2.    Plan your meal BEFORE you get to the restaurant

There are numerous online websites that provide information about a restaurant’s menu and calorie information. Review the menu before you consider dining out and choose a healthy choice before you get to the restaurant. Studies have also shown that if you order your meal first that you are less likely to “mirror” what others order.

3.    Avoid menu items that are “creamy, crispy, fried, breaded or smothered”

Keep in mind that sauces can add hundreds of calories to your meal. Find food choices that are grilled, steamed or broiled and don’t be afraid to ask for no butter.

4.    Box up half the meal BEFORE you start eating

Given that many restaurants have serving sizes that could feed three people, make sure to box up half your meal before you start eating. Ask the server to bring a to go box and eliminate all temptation to finish the whole meal.

Also make sure you understand appropriate serving sizes when dining out. A serving size for a piece of meat is generally about the size of your fist, a far cry from what is normally served.

5.    Drink water and slow down when dining out

Several other suggestions include drinking water instead of soft drinks and slowing down while you eat to make sure you don’t consume too many calories before you realize you are full.

America will have to address the issue of obesity and the cost to all of us for increased health care expenses and disability benefits. Take several small steps and you could begin the journey to a healthier you.
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