Making healthier choices when dining out

Try these tips when dining out to find nutritious and healthy options.

During American Heart Month, consider making a change to your eating habits while dining out to improve your nutrition and keep your heart healthy. With the numbers of meals being eaten away from home continuing to rise annually, it is critical to learn tips to help you and your family make healthier choices when eating away from home. It is important to understand what's on the menu when you eat out.

You might be wondering if it is possible to make healthy choices at restaurants. The answer is, yes, you can choose more nutritious options if you know what to look for. Many restaurants offer delicious meals that are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. You can also request a special order and they will prepare your food to order at many establishments. By learning and understanding what to look for, you can improve the meals you eat away from home and use them to enhance your diet.  

Here are some tips from the American Heart Association to use when making menu choices:

  • Remember that foods served fried, au gratin, crispy, scalloped, pan-fried, sautéed, buttered, creamed or stuffed are high in fat and calories. Instead, look for steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted foods.   
  • If you are not sure based on the menu description how a meal is prepared or what ingredients it contains, ask your server.  
  • Share an entrée or put half in a takeout box to help control your portion size.
  • Choose entrees that feature seafood, chicken or lean meat, and avoid fatty meats. If you order meat, remove all visible fat and ask the chef to remove the skin from the chicken.  
  • Check the menu for items marked “healthy” or ask the server what the healthiest choices on the menu are.
  • Choose fruit for dessert or share a dessert to cut down on calories and fat consumed.
  • Order vegetables as side dishes, instead of fried options (like French fries); this will help fill you up.
  • Eat slowly to allow time for your brain to register that you are getting full.

Michigan State University Extension encourages you to use every meal you eat to help improve your health.  Whether you eat at home or eat out, take each opportunity to choose healthy foods.

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