How many of you eat out at least once a day?  According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 57% of Americans dine out at least once a day.  This number has increased by 33% since the 1970s.  When looking up information on how to eat healthy when dining out, I came across this interesting statistic.  52% of Americans believe that doing their taxes is easier than trying to figure out how to eat healthy.  I can see how that could be true.  With all of the controversy that comes with nutrition, it can be very difficult to figure out what is true and what is just a fad.  There is also a vastness of information from the internet, magazines, television, word of mouth, the list goes on.  This can make the process very overwhelming.  I am here to tell you that making healthy decisions can be done, and it is a lot easier than most people make it out to be.

So first off, why is dining out becoming more of a standard way of living rather than home cooked meals?  Well we have become more busy.  A lot of people are trying to balance work and a family, work and school, or even work, family, and school.  This leaves little time to come home and make a descent meal, so it is a lot easier for people to grab food on their way home from work.  The problem with this, though, is that typically food from a restaurant is higher in calories, unhealthy fat, sodium, and is lower in nutrients.  Also, portion sizes are a lot larger than what we really need.  The picture below is a perfect example of how much our portion sizes have changed.  The portion sizes from 20 years ago are the sizes we really need and the present day portion sizes are about twice as much as we really need.  portion-distortion-visual

Since a majority of us turn to fast food and drive thru lanes I thought I would start off with healthy eating tips at fast food restaurants.

5 Tips for Fast Food:

  1. Order your burger without cheese, bacon, or “special” sauce.  These items add additional saturated fat and calories.  Cheese adds about 70-100 calories, bacon adds 30-50 calories, and “special” sauces add 80-100 calories.
  2. Try adding vegetables such as pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mustard, and ketchup.  These items help add additional flavor to your burger without all of the extra fat and calories.  They are also a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  3. Stay away from fried fish or chicken sandwiches.  You may think that these are healthier options than a burger because it’s chicken and fish, and those are supposed to be healthy right?  Well that’s not really the case when the chicken and fish is fried, usually these sandwiches are as bad or worse for you than the burger would have been.  Instead opt for a grilled chicken or fish sandwich without mayonnaise or any other mayonnaise based sauce.
  4. Instead of ordering French fries, try a baked potato with low-fat sour cream and chives(green onions), a side salad, or fruit.  If you order a side salad, be sure to order low-fat or vinaigrette dressings otherwise you can potentially make your salad as bad or worse for you than the French fries would have been.
  5. Last, but certainly not least, order water instead of soda.  If you absolutely have to have a soda, try ordering a kids size soda with a regular water.  This way you kick your soda craving without all of the calories and sugar.

And here are tips for dining out at a sit-down restaurant.

5 Tips for Dining Out:

  1. Plan ahead.  If you know that you’re going to be eating out with friends or family, it is a good idea to check out the menu online before you go out.  Now days they have online menus for just about every restaurant and a lot of them even include nutrition information.  By looking at the menu ahead of time, there is no distractions or peer pressure.
  2. Order water or unsweet tea.
  3. Order dressing on the side.  If you are ordering a salad, order it with the dressing on the side.  Typically restaurants will put way more salad dressing than you need on the salad, I don’t know about you but I don’t like my lettuce swimming in my dressing.  By asking for the dressing on the side you are able to add as much or as little as you like.
  4. Eat half and take the rest home.  Generally when we eat out we are served way more than we really need.  To avoid overeating, ask for a to-go box right after you order, this way you can pack up half right at the beginning and you won’t be tempted to over eat.
  5. When it comes time for dessert, choose fruit.

I hope that you learned something new about eating out!  🙂