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8 Tips for Eating Better when Eating Out

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With so little time and so many quick and tasty options at sit-down and fast-food restaurants, it can be hard to stick to a healthy diet. On average, Americans eat 50% more calories, fat and salt when eating out versus eating at home. This can lead to weight gain, which has a significant effect on joint health. While eating at home may be the healthier and lower-calorie option, eating out cannot always be avoided-but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your healthy eating habits. Learn 8 tips for eating better when eating out from NEBH Dietitian Bethany Volino, MS, RD, LDN.

Ditch the bread basket
The bread basket can lead to mindless eating while you wait for your meal. Instead of letting it stick around to tempt you, take what you want and have the server remove the rest. This allows you the option to have a piece, but reduces the risk of overeating.

Limit liquid calories – choose unsweetened beverages
Stick to water, seltzer and unsweetened iced tea. Soda, mixed drinks and alcohol are high in calories and refined sugar. Avoid these extra calories by choosing liquids wisely. If you decide on a beverage with alcohol, balance each drink with water to avoid overconsuming.

Start off right
Start with a side salad! This is an easy way to get a serving of veggies at your dinner meal. Plus, veggies are high in fiber, which helps to fill us up. By starting with the high fiber foods, you are less likely to overeat when the main meal arrives.

Get it on the side
The salad dressing, that is. Ask the server to put the dressing on the side to avoid over-dressing your salad. With the dressing on the side, you decide how much or how little you want. Dressing is high in fat and therefore calories. Choose oil based salad dressing – it’s contains the healthy fats you want in your diet. Better yet, use olive oil and vinegar to flavor your salad.

Get it broiled, roasted or baked
The method of cooking is as important as what you are eating. Broiled, roasted or baked meats are cooked with less fat and breading, making them the healthier cooking methods. Avoid battered and fried foods.

Double the veggies
Ask for twice the serving of vegetables with your dinner meal. Remember veggies are high in fiber and low in calories. This will help you to maintain good portion control and still feel satisfied at the end of your meal. Beware of the cooking method of your veggies. Ask for steamed, or have them prepared with olive oil instead of butter, and do the seasoning yourself.

Maintain portion control
Most restaurant meals are actually big enough for two meals. Ask the server for a to-go box when your food arrives and portion half of your food into the to-go box right away to avoid over-eating. Or, share your meal with another person. Also remember to make half your plate fruits and veggies, one quarter of your plate protein and the other quarter whole grains. Using this healthy plate guide will help you to make sure you are getting the right portions of each food at your meals.

Eat slowly – enjoy yourself!
No need to rush! When we eat slowly we give our brains a chance to catch up with our stomachs. This allows us to recognize when we are full and stop eating.

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