Eating Out -- Tips for Dining Out

There are reasons to try to make it healthy
Restaurant food is usually higher in calories, sodium and unhealthy fats and lower in nutrients when compared to home-cooked food.  Restaurants also serve larger portions, so we often eat more than we do at home. The good news is in restaurants these days you have plenty of choices. The restaurant industry is one of hospitality and customer choice.  

Planning is important
Before going out to eat, find the healthier menu choices by looking at the restaurant's web site.  Many establishments provide nutrition information online these days.  A large number of restaurants offer healthy menu items.  If you know what to look for, you can have a healthy meal wherever, whenever.  Don't deprive yourself of the foods you love, just opt for healthier versions.  Avoid places that lure you in with dessert specials or all- you- can- eat- buffets.  Look for places that offer a variety of foods.  Try ethnic or vegetarian for different, healthy and tasty choices.  Don't wait until you are starving to find a place to eat.  You'll be more likely to walk into the first place you see and eat anything available.  If you will be on the go a while before eating, bring a healthy snack such as fruit, raw veggies, string cheese or nuts to help tide you over.

What to order
Choose water, unsweetened tea or low fat milk as a beverage rather than a sugary soda.  Many people do not realize how many calories they take in through just drinks! Limit appetizers, bread and butter and other "fillers".  If you must have something before a meal, soup or salad is a good choice.  Keep in mind that cream-based soups are higher in calories than broth based soups. Be aware that salad dressings and toppings like croutons can add fat and calories to otherwise healthy veggies!  Ask for dressing served on the side, then use only as much as you need. Choose a vinaigrette type dressing rather than a cream-based one. For entrees such as pasta, try a tomato based sauce instead of a cream based sauce.  Tomato sauce is not only lower in fat and calories, but it also counts as a vegetable serving. If you can choose whole grain pasta, even better.  Whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread for sandwiches are great, too. Look for items on the menu that are baked, grilled, broiled or steamed.  These cooking techniques use less fat during preparation and are usually lower in calories. Choose leaner cuts of meat, such as unbreaded fish, skinless chicken breasts, turkey burgers and sirloin.  Pass on gravies and sauces.  Food that uses fresh herbs and spices for flavor is not only healthier, but tastes better too!
There are lots of choices depending on what type of restaurant you choose to visit.  Here are tips...
Some ideas...

When eating here...         Choose...                                         Avoid...
Italian restaurant       pasta, tomato sauce, veggies                   cream  or butter sauce
                         thin crust  pizza, veg, half the cheese        fried foods
                         grilled  meats and veggies                     pan pizza with lots of
                                                                        meats  and extra cheese
Asian restaurant        stir fried or steamed meat and veggies          egg rolls and fried foods
                        steamed  brown rice                             fried  rice
                        soy sauce,  wasabi, hot mustard                 sweet  and sour sauce
Sandwich shop           lean meats such as turkey,  roast beef          bacon,  meatballs
                        mustard, flavored  vinegars, hot peppers        mayo, special  sauce
                        6 inch whole  wheat with extra veggies          footlong on white bread                                                                                                                with  extra cheese 
Mexican restaurant      black beans                                     refried beans 
                        salsa and  guacamole                            cheese and sour cream
                        "fresco"  style - fresh veg, plain tortilla     deep fried & crispy items 
Homestyle restaurant    skinless BBQ chicken, grilled fish              fried chicken, meatloaf
                        roasted  potatoes, rice pilaf                   mashed  potatoes & gravy
                        garden  salad, steamed veg                      caesar salad, creamed                                                                                                                                     vegetables      
Burger Joint            Regular single burger, grilled  chicken         fried chicken,  supersize
                        mustard,  onions, lettuce, tomato               cheese,  mayo, bacon
                        yogurt  parfait                                 milkshake 


Nutrient Note:
Need to increase your vegetable intake?  Most restaurants will customize, just ask!  Add extra veggies to pasta, pizza, sandwiches.  It will help fill you up too!


From the Nutrition Management Department in Mitchell Hall
United States Air Force Academy
Ms. Shelly Morales, MS, RD,  CSSD Nutritionist  Ext.  3663                         
Ms. Stephanie Winsborrow, DTR  Diet Technician  Ext. 9812
Please E-mail any questions to:

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