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13 Tips to Eating Out with Health in Mind

Keri Tidwell

Couple eating out healthy

It used to be that eating at a restaurant was a treat, reserved for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Today though, 82% of Americans eat out at least once a week, and some eat regularly at restaurants (Cambridge Core). While eating meals out is convenient, it comes at a cost.

Aside from the obvious expense, on the whole, eating at restaurants is less healthy than eating at home. Portion sizes are often too large for the average person. Many menu items are loaded with sodium and saturated fat, not to mention the extras like chips and bread that add calories and are devoid of nutritional value (American Heart Association).

But who doesn’t enjoy a nice dinner out every once in a while? And what about those hectic days when you are racing from work or school to one event after another? Picking up something quick to eat can seem like a necessity.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when eating at restaurants:

  1. Plan ahead. Pick a restaurant with healthy menu options. Look at the nutritional information on the restaurant’s website or download a free app like Clean Plates.
  2. Order water. Save money and watch your sugar by saying no to sweet tea and soft drinks. Instead, ask for fresh lemon. Drink plenty of water throughout your meal to stay hydrated, help you feel full, and slow you down as you eat.
  3. Skip the appetizers. They are usually loaded with fat, calories, and sodium. If you must, order a house salad or broth-based soup.
  4. Eat a salad first. Pick one with lots of veggies and leafy greens. Skip the ham, croutons, and cheese. Opt for a low-calorie dressing or oil and vinegar on the side. Eating a fiber-rich salad first will fill you up fast.
  5. Skip the buffet. Buffets are usually loaded with fried, fatty foods. Plus, they encourage overeating.
  6. Order one of the healthy options. Most restaurants offer light entrees. Go for steamed, broiled, baked or grilled chicken or fish. Or choose a healthy vegetable salad and add a lean protein.
  7. Choose whole grains. Ask for brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole grain breads and rolls instead of refined white flour. Whole grains are filled with fiber and balance blood sugar so that you will be satisfied longer.
  8. Share an entree. Choose a healthy main dish and divide it up among friends and family to get a smaller portion size.
  9. Opt for healthy sides. Instead of French fries, ask for a side salad, salsa, steamed broccoli, fresh fruit, baked sweet potato (butter on the side), or other steamed or fresh choices.
  10. Have your entree prepared to your preference. Make special requests that help you eat healthier.
  11. Eat slowly. Slow eaters tend to eat less and fill up more quickly. Pause between bites to engage in conversation. Savor your meal.
  12. Skip dessert.
  13. Bring home leftovers. Think of leftovers as tomorrow’s lunch. That is one less meal to fix or buy.

According to Reader’s Digest, “government surveys find that the food you typically eat when you’re not home is nutritionally worse in every way than the food you eat at home.” So try some recipes from our monthly meal plans and our Colon-Healthy Recipes board on Pinterest.

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