Healthy Choices While Eating Out

Healthy choices should be your main focus when eating out.

Whether it’s occasionally or frequently, we're all guilty of eaing out to some degree. Health concerns and tighter budgets are playing more prominent roles in dining out experiences these days and making healthier choices will benefit you in the long run.

Did you know that the average meal eaten in a restaurant can contain more than one days worth of salt and fat in a single entree? Guidelines limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg/day for healthy adults and 1,500 mg/day for those middle aged or older and often lower for those with high blood pressure. Standard charts list an adequate intake (AI) of 1,500 mg/day for most adults.

Fat intake should be limited to healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocados, flax seed oil and fatty fish oils. The recommended daily intake for fat should not exceed 30% of total caloric intake. If you’re watching your weight you want to be closer to the 25% mark.

Healthy home cooked meals are by far a much smarter and healthier choice. It’s true, cooking your own meals helps you control additives, fat, and salt, but there are times when a home cooked meal is not an option – a night out with friends, business lunches/dinners & company functions, and travelling.

So what do you do when you’re trying to make healthy choices but just can’t have that home cooked meal? The answer is to first choose a healthy restaurant and then peruse the menu and pick your meal with strategy in mind. One helpful tip is to go online and look up the fat and sodium content of menu items before heading to the restaurant.

Most restaurant chains will post this information and it will help you weed out the unhealthy menu items.

To calculate fat percentages; take the number of fat in grams and multiply by 9, then divide by the total number of calories in the meal.

Below are a few tips to help navigate the restaurant food jungle:

  1. Choose salad over soup and ask for an olive oil & vinaigrette dressing on the side – soups have hidden sodium.
  2. Stay away from deli meats.
  3. Choose whole grain breads if ordering from the sandwich menu.
  4. Avoid the fried entrees and look for something baked.
  5. Fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, or tuna is a good option due to the healthy omega-3s.
  6. Look for free range chicken as a healthy alternative
  7. Stay away from cream based sauces – they add to your fat intake.
  8. Choose an entrée which includes seasonal vegetables.
  9. If you’re trying to watch your weight ask for a second helping of vegetables in place of your starch.
  10. If you must have dessert, go for the fresh fruit option.

Making healthy choices will add up over time producing results that you can be proud of, both inside and out.

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