Tips for a healthy restaurant meal

Healthy restaurant mealsEating healthy at a restaurant can be tricky.

Recent research by Susan Roberts, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University, reports that while most listed calorie counts are accurate, those for the lowest calorie options are on average 100 calories below than what the foods really contain. And the listed counts often average the amount of calories over several different plates of the same meal, so there’s no guarantee of exactly how many calories you’re consuming with any one serving.

Via Christi Weight Management dietitian Helen Ramsey offers these tips for staying on track with your healthy diet when dining out.

  • Before dining, check out the restaurant’s menu online. Be prepared  to order a la carte  to get the portion size you want to consume.
  • Be aware of portion sizes. If a menu says the serving is “a cup” it should look like a tennis ball. A half-cup portion should be the size of  a computer mouse.
  • A healthy 3-ounce serving of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Don’t assume salads are low-calorie. Read the menu carefully for high-calorie ingredients your salad may contain, such as cheese, bacon, avocado, or creamy dressing.
  • Be specific when ordering your food; ask that no fat be added when  the veggies are grilled, ask for the items like gravy, sour cream or butter be served on the side rather  than be served on a potato. You then have control over the portion you use.
  • When  you are ordering off the “lite menu,” beware of the bread (70 calories per ounce) or tortilla chips (150 calories per ounce) that may be served at the beginning of the meal. They can hinder your plans to consume a low-calorie meal.
  • Look for low-calorie side dishes when ordering off the “lite menu.” Instead of french fries with the low-calorie chicken sandwich, ask for a side of steamed veggies.
  • Make healthy requests when you order: salad dressing on the side or no mayonnaise on the sandwich. Then, tip the wait staff for fulfilling your requests. 
  • Forego the alcohol at the beginning of the meal as it will increase hunger, making you less likely to stick with healthy food choices.

About Judy Conkling

This longtime “foodie” studied nutrition science at Kansas State University before realizing her true calling was as a writer and editor. (But she still loves to cook -- and has a deep interest in all things relating to a healthy mind, body and soul.) She has been a part of the Via Christi Health Communication and Public Relations team since February 2000.
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