Is it possible to eat healthy when dining out?

If you’re like me, cooking during the summer without central air conditioning is a nightmarish task. Turning on the stove in 95 degree heat is the last thing I want to do.

Don’t get me wrong – I like cooking and know that home-cooked meals are healthier for you, especially compared to drive through fast food or visiting one of the local ‘tableside’ restaurants.  Still, there are days when the threat of heat stroke inspires me to grab my keys and head to the car, searching for food prepared anywhere but my kitchen.

While it’s more convenient to have someone else do the cooking and cleaning, I know that there is a price to be paid convenience. When it comes to dining out, that price usually includes a drastic increase in caloric intake, sodium and saturated fat, not to mention the hit my checking account takes when trying to feed a family of four.

But, there are tools available that can help me make wiser decisions when dining out. For instance, the American Heart Association offers invaluable information when it comes to eating fast food, ordering a healthy meal off a menu and what types of food by cuisine are healthiest for you. You’ll also find information on their “Heart Check” program.

But, if you’re stuck in the heat, ate SUBWAY for dinner yesterday evening and are looking for some other healthy alternatives, here are some helpful hints to keep in mind when dining out:

  • Mind the beverages.  One 20-ounce cola contains on average 65 grams of sugar — the equivalent of 16 sugar cubes. Choose water, unsweetened tea or other drinks without added sugars.
  • Bigger isn’t always better. Practice eating smaller portions, sharing your meal with someone else or plan on taking half the entrée home.
  • Resign from the “Clean Plate Club.” Don’t eat for the sake of eating or because you feel guilty that there are starving children in the world. Order only what you can eat, or plan on sharing or taking food home.
  • Palatable poetic justice. The following are just a few things to either look for or avoid when dining out:

Good                       vs.                      Bad

–        Grilled                                     –        Breaded

–        Broiled                                    –        Battered

–        Flame cooked                        –        Dipped

–        Steamed                                   –        Fried

–        Tomato-based sauce           –        Cream-based sauce

–        Veggie-topped pizza            –        Meat-topped pizza

–        Dressings on the side          –        Sides smothered in dressing

There are tons of fantastic tips on how to eat healthy when dining out. In fact, there are great sites like The Healthy Dining Finder that can help you locate dietitian-approved restaurants and their meal offerings. While I plan on using such resources, you can help save me from my dreadfully hot kitchen this summer by dishing on your favorite healthy dishes.

What menu items do you select when trying to stay healthy while eating out?


Photo credit: penguincakes


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