Lillian Swatek, RD, CDE, CSO, is a clinical outpatient dietitian at Banner Desert Medical Center. For more information on this topic, consult with your doctor.
Question: My husband and I have busy schedules, and we frequently eat out. How can I make sure we’re making healthy choices and not taking in too many calories?
Answer: Dining out is a common and often necessary experience in today’s world. However, it can be hard to know what choices to make while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Even the most conscious eaters can fall into traps when eating out like skipping meals during the day or eating large portions to get their money’s worth. But there are ways to enjoy the convenience without overeating.
First, plan ahead. Knowing what restaurant you’re going to allows you to research the menu in advance. Making decisions beforehand will help you resist ordering fatty appetizers, beverages and desserts that can spike your caloric intake. If nutritional information is available, choose meals with less than 800 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 1,000 milligrams of sodium.
Also, finding out how foods are prepared can help you avoid hidden calories and fat. For example, a lot of restaurants use butter, salt and oils to prepare foods. Ask to skip them or request salt-free herbs instead. Grilled and baked meats are always a better alternative to fried or “crispy" options. And you can hold the cheese and get dressings and sauces on the side to save calories, sodium and fat.
Finally, slow down and enjoy your food. Leaving some food on your plate or asking for a to-go box when you’re full is perfectly acceptable. Remember, when dining out, you’re paying for convenience more than anything.