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Dining Out As A Routine, Is Good Health Still Possible?

By Constance Weygandt

Often, I hear from people who have a dilemma. They would like to live a healthy lifestyle but don't have time to cook. It is definitely healthier to eat less processed food and foods that you prepare yourself. This way, we have control of how much sugar and fat goes into our meals. In a restaurant, unless you know the chef, it is often hard to control or have knowledge of what goes into our prepared foods. However, it is not impossible. We can make healthier choices, if we have a plan. Here are some ideas for several types of restaurants.

A Fast Food Restaurant. Today, most fast food restaurants offer healthier food choices. Here are some possible food choices to make:

  • a small grilled sandwich of any lean meat, with no condiments or sauces and a salad with low fat dressing on the side.

  • a small potato with salsa or vegetables and low fat sour cream

  • salad as a main meal with grilled chicken, low fat dressing and nonfat yogurt for desert.

    An Italian Restaurant. Have half the portion of pasta served, with a dinner salad and no bread. A few slices of thin crust pizza with vegetable toppings is quite healthy. You do not always have to select pasta. Most Italian restaurants offer a grilled meat or fish selection. Instead of the pasta, as a side, opt for an extra serving of vegetables.

    A Mexican Restaurant. Order fajitas with grilled chicken or soft chicken tacos. Load your fajita or taco with extra tomato, onions and lettuce. Salsa and low fat sour cream make great condiments. Some Mexican restaurants offer low fat, vegetarian side dishes instead of refried beans. If you don't see it on the menu ask if they offer a low fat alternative to the refried beans.

    A Family Style Restaurant. Stay away from the fried food. Order your lean meat or fish cooked with no added fat. If there is a sauce or gravy, with the dish, have it served on the side. Order two vegetable side dishes. If you have potatoes, order them baked and only have them on occasion served with chives and low fat sour cream. Try oil and vinegar, as a salad dressing, or ask for your salad dressing on the side and dip your salad into the dressing. Try and skip the rolls and bread. If no one else, at your table, wants bread ask the server not to bring the bread basket.

    The All You Can Eat Buffet. This can present a challenge because many of the dishes offered are higher in fat and calories. However, there are usually some grilled and baked items offered. Stick to the grilled items and plain vegetable dishes. Stay away from any meat, vegetable, potato or pasta casserole. Go to the salad bar, first. Choose the salad greens and vegetables and low fat dressings. Stay away from the bacon bits, croutons, cheeses and any already prepared salads. Have fruit or fruit mixed with yogurt for desert.

    When eating out, at a buffet, it is important to keep in mind the variety of choice not the amount able to be consumed at one sitting.

    If you are dining out frequently, more than five times a week, remember to keep your portions the same as they would be at home. Don't eat everything on your plate, just because it was served to you. Most portions, served in restaurants, are oversized. Take half the portion home, for another meal, if uncomfortable leaving food on your plate. Don't feel embarrassed to ask the restaurant to make substitutions, if possible, for lower fat alternatives. Remember, if you eat out at least as often as you eat at home, you are their bread and butter.

    About The Author
    Constance Weygandt is an author, speaker and balance mentor.

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