Healthy Choices When Eating Out
Eating out is a special treat for many of us. How can you limit calories, fat, sodium
and sugars without giving up your favorite foods? Have your favorite restaurant meal, and
then balance out the calories and fat over the next day or two with meals. Or select
nutritious, low-fat, low-sodium meals wherever you eat. Here are some tips:
- For appetizers, go easy on rich sauces, dips and batter-fried foods. If you want soup,
order a cup rather than a bowl. Broth or tomato-based soups are lower in fat than creamed
soups. For added starch and fiber, choose soups made with lentils, beans or split peas.
- Croissants, biscuits, and hush puppies are much higher in fat than most other breads.
Sweet rolls and sticky buns are higher in sugar and fat than loaf bread. Many crackers are
high in fat and sodium, so enjoy just a few and limit spreads and dips.
- Tossed green salads are healthy choices, its what we add to the salad that can
be a problem. Salad dressings are often high in fat, calories and sodium. Use them
sparingly or ask for reduced calories salad dressings. Many salad toppers such as bacon
bits, chopped egg, grated cheese, and croutons add extra calories, fat and sodium.
- Go easy on prepared salads that contain a lot of mayonnaise, salad dressing or oil,
such a macaroni salad, potato salad, creamy coleslaw and marinated vegetables. Plain
vegetables are high in fiber and other nutrients and low in calories, fat and sodium. Look
for vegetables seasoned with lemon, herbs or spices. Most restaurants will also serve
gravies, cream sauces, sour cream and other toppings "on the side".
- Order meat fish or poultry that is broiled, grilled, baked, steamed or poached rather
than fried. However, broiled or grilled entrees are often basted with lots of fat. Ask to
have your entree prepared without added fat or request that they use wine or lemon juice.
Sometimes fried foods are your only choice. If so, have a smaller helping. Remove the skin
or breading to cut fat and calories. This may also decrease sodium.
- Order a light dessert such as low-fat yogurt, sherbet, fruit ice or sorbet. If you decide on a rich
dessert such as pie, cake or pastry, try splitting it with a friend.
- Extra meat sauces can give you two to three times the calories and fat. Limit big burgers with names like
"super, double, or triple". Pass up or request smaller amounts of the high-fat toppings such as bacon,
mayonnaise and special sauces. Adding lettuce, tomatoes, and mushrooms can spice up your low-fat burger.
- Order baked potatoes plain or choose lo-fat toppings such as low-fat sour cream, cottage cheese or
reduced fat cheeses. These are better choices than butter, margarine or regular cheeses. It's also wise to
select a smaller portion of french fries. Super size fries mean super size calories!
- Low-fat milk, 100% natural juice, diet sodas, low-fat shakes and flavored waters are excellent thirst quenchers.
- Faced with dish after dish on a buffet line? Select broiled meat, grilled fish, baked chicked and steamed
vegetables. Go easy on marinated salads and salad dressings.
- Choose thin-crust pizzas topped with vegetables.
Susan Mills-Gray, Mills-GrayS@missouri.edu
Regional Specialist, Nutrition and Health Education
Cass County, Missouri
University of Missouri Extension