Eat healthfully when dining out

154225000I’ve been trying to lose some weight, but lately I’ve been eating out a lot, both for business and pleasure. How can I keep eating healthfully at restaurants?

It can be a challenge to keep calories under control when eating out. Portion sizes tend to be big, and, if nutrition information isn’t available, items that sound healthful on the menu may not be so in reality.

However, with a little planning and determination, you can stay on track and keep shedding pounds, even while dining out. Here are a few tips:

  • If you know where you’ll be eating, look online for a menu to review ahead of time. This will help in case you find yourself caught up in conversation and not able to study the menu carefully once you get to the restaurant.
  • While you’re online, see if nutrition information is available, either on the restaurant website or a weight loss or fitness website. It’s not always possible to find, but it’s worth investigating since most chain restaurants publish this information.
  • Don’t assume that salad is your best option. With high-calorie dressings, croutons, cheese, fried chicken or other fried toppings, salads can easily put you overboard on calories if you’re not careful.
  • Look for lean protein — chicken, fish, or lean pork or beef — that hasn’t been fried or smothered in sauce. Entrees that are baked, broiled, grilled or stir-fried are your best options.
  • With pasta, choose tomato or marinara sauce instead of cream or cheese sauces. Opt for a dish that doesn’t have cheese as a primary ingredient. If the server offers to add freshly grated cheese on your entree, you can control the amount.
  • If your meal comes with a side, order a salad or vegetable without butter. If it comes with two sides and there’s only one healthy option that sounds appealing, ask for a double order of that item.
  • Before you head out, you might want to eat a small portion of lean protein (possibly a high-protein drink or bar) to help you feel satiated and avoid overeating at the restaurant.
  • If the portion size is large, ask for a take-home container immediately. Then remove half of the meal from your plate so you aren’t tempted to polish it off.
  • Watch the beverages. Stick with ice water, diet soda or unsweetened iced tea. Limit alcoholic beverages to one at most.

You can enjoy your time dining out and make healthy choices at the same time. Don’t forget your decision to eat a healthy diet when you step through the restaurant door.


Don’t let vacation go to waist

We’ll be spending two weeks driving around the Midwest on vacation this summer. I hate the idea of eating a lot of fast food. Do you have some tips for healthy eating while on the road?

Vacations can really throw your diet a curve. First, unless you’re planning to hook up your refrigerator to a portable generator and tow it behind you, getting your hands on fresh fruits and vegetables won’t be nearly as convenient as it is at home. Second, since you’re on vacation, you may decide to indulge in treats more often than usual. Third, even when you do want to make healthy choices, your options might be limited.

But, yes, there are things you can do that will help. These tips are from a variety of sources, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), the National Diabetes Education Program and the Obesity Prevention Program — the latter two being part of the National Institutes of Health:

• Bring an ice chest and pack it with resealable plastic bags full of healthy snacks: carrots, celery sticks, pepper strips, broccoli and cauliflower florets, snow peas, hummus, apples, oranges, grapes, single-serving containers of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, 2 percent cheese, and low- or nonfat yogurt. Be sure to pack some plastic utenstils for foods you can’t eat with your fingers. And be sure to pack some hand sanitizer to use before eating the foods you do eat with your fingers.

• Also, take along a box of items that don’t need to be kept cool but are just as healthy, such as single-serving containers of tuna and canned fruit, whole-grain crackers, small portions of dried fruit and nuts, and bottled water. You can build a great lunch with these items, enjoying it at a rest stop picnic table on your trip.

• When you do eat at restaurants, try to order first so your choice won’t be influenced by everyone else at the table. And, ask if anyone wants to split an entree with you — that’s a great way to keep portions to a reasonable size. Stay away from fried foods and instead look for grilled, baked or broiled options. Consider ordering milk as a beverage if you’re not getting much calcium, or stick to water, unsweetened tea or diet soft drinks. Look at the salads offered, but be careful: High-fat dressing, cheese, croutons and other toppings can surprise you with how much fat and calories they contain. When restaurants offer a “healthy” menu, choose from it at least half the time.

• Staying at a hotel that offers breakfast? Choose eggs if they’re available, or opt for yogurt, fresh fruit, juice or low-sugar, high-fiber cereal.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or