Eating Out? Make Healthy Food Choices

One of the most difficult parts of dieting is the issue of eating out. Whether you are on the run and pressed for time, or you are meeting friends for dinner, a restaurant menu can be a challenge for the health- or calorie-conscious diner. But eating out doesn’t have to mean blowing your diet for the day. With a little strategy, you can grab a meal at a fast food joint or enjoy a leisurely dinner at a high-end eatery without compromising your weight loss goals.

Even in fast food restaurants is it possible to choose healthy food. Take instead of the fatty cheeseburger the salad with lean, grilled chicken. Skip the dressing or take the low-fat yoghurt one. For desert you can choose yoghurt with fruits instead of soft ice.

Whenever possible, ask for your sandwich without mayonnaise and forget about the bacon. Don’t be fooled by a fish sandwich – although fish is certainly a healthy food in general, the fast-food version is deep fried and just as fattening for you as an oil-soaked serving of chicken nuggets.

When you stop to order a sub, you have lots of healthy choices. Avoid things like tuna or chicken salad, which are loaded with mayonnaise and pass on steak or meatball – especially with cheese. Ham or turkey, or even lean roast beef – are great choices. Load up with veggies – skip the mayonnaise – and add mustard or vinegar, salt and pepper for the flavor. If you have a choice of bread, go for the whole-grain offering.

While many of the menu items at casual dining restaurants are heavy on the fat and calorie content, there are often low-cal and heart-healthy choices. A soup and a salad can be tasty and satisfying without shooting your daily calorie intake through the roof. Ask for the dressing on the side so that you can control how much you end up eating.

Vegetarian menu items are generally a good option, as long as they are not prepared with lots of cheese or cream. Avoid heavy pasta dishes and choose grilled chicken or fish instead of burgers or steaks. Most desserts at casual dining establishments are loaded with calories. If you can’t pass up on the sweets, look for a sorbet; otherwise, your best bet is to share with a friend, instead of shoveling down an entire portion on your own.

If you enjoy the occasional meal at a destination restaurant, it can be difficult to find health-conscious items on the menu. The chefs at this type of establishment regard food as an art form and use their restaurants to showcase their work. Their food is carefully prepared to accentuate flavors and textures with little or no regard to caloric content – butter, cream, and other rich ingredients are the norm.

Some high-end chefs are happy to prepare healthy dishes not listen on the menu; you can ask for grilled chicken or fish prepared with olive oil rather than butter, without sauce. If this turns out not to be possible, do your best with the regular menu items. Order soup or a salad as an appetizer, and stick to fish or a vegetarian dish. Fill up with steamed vegetables and skip the bread and the cheese course.

For dessert, a sorbet or a light meringue are healthy options; stay away from anything with the word “crème” in the name.

While you should make every effort to stay with your diet whenever possible, the occasional indulgence is not going to hurt – in fact, allowing yourself a treat now and then can help you stay on track the rest of the time. By making the healthiest choices you can every time you enjoy a meal away from home, you will eventually reach your weight loss goals, as well as improving your long-term health and well-being.

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