Healthy Eating Away from Home

Eating out doesn’t have to be a health dilemma. Many restaurants offer tasty meals that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and added sugars.

A diet high in saturated and trans fats can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. Eating too much sodium can increase blood pressure in some people. And, added sugars provide no nutrients, but the added calories can lead to weight gain, or even obesity.

When choosing a restaurant, keep these things in mind. Will the restaurant:

  • Take special food preparation requests?
  • Prepare food without salt, MSG or other ingredients that can add sodium?
  • Serve dressings and sauces on the side?
  • Serve soft margarine (0 g trans fat) or healthier vegetable oils, not butter, with the meal?
  • Serve low-fat dairy products such as 1% or skim milk?
  • Prepare dishes using nontropical vegetable oil (canola, olive, peanut, corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower) or soft margarine made with vegetable oil?
  • Remove skin from poultry and trim visible fat from all meats before cooking?
  • Broil, grill, bake, steam or poach rather than fry foods?
  • Leave all butter, gravy or sauces off entrées and side dishes?
  • Serve fresh fruit and fruit-based desserts without a lot of added sugars and unhealthy fats?

When Ordering

Avoid foods that are fried, au gratin, crispy, scalloped, pan-fried or stuffed, and look for items that are steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached, roasted, or sautéed in healthier oils.

Mind Portion Sizes

To keep from overeating, ask for smaller portions. You can also split an appetizer, entrée or dessert with a friend. Or, ask for a take-home box and put half the meal in before you start eating. If you’re ordering food to go, avoid eating from the container or package. Instead, serve the food in a small bowl or plate to help control the amount you eat.

Choose Healthier Fats

Ask that your meal be prepared with non-tropical vegetable oil (canola, olive, corn, soy, sunflower or safflower) or soft margarine instead of butter and less-healthy oils.

Avoid Excess Salt

Foods that are pickled, smoked or served with sauces such as cocktail sauce, au jus, gravy, other salty broths and soy or teriyaki sauce can contain a lot of sodium. Limit these items. Ask that your food be prepared without added salt or MSG and that sauces be served on the side.

Don’t be shy. Ask for what you want! Most foods on the menu can fit into a heart-healthy eating plan if prepared in a healthier manner. If your food isn’t prepared as you asked, send it back. Bon appétit!

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