8 Tips for Eating Out More Healthfully

According to the Zagat 2012 America's Top Restaurants Survey, Americans dine out an average of 3.1 times per week. While eating out with friends and family is a highly enjoyable experience, it can also present nutritional challenges. Avoid nutrition blunders with these eight tips next time you eat out.

1. Eliminate One Restaurant Meal Each Week

Count the number of times you dine out during a typical week. Then identify one restaurant meal you can comfortably eliminate on a weekly basis and eat a home cooked meal. If you eat out more than once a day, you may want to eliminate two weekly restaurant meals. This gives you more control over the nutritional content of your food. As an added benefit, you will also save money.

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2. Select Your Restaurant Meal in Advance 

Most restaurants have menus posted online, and many establishments include nutrition information. You can also purchase a calorie-counter book that emphasizes popular restaurants. This will help you to make smarter and healthier meal choices.

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3. Frequent Healthy Restaurants

Get in the habit of visiting restaurants that offer a healthy menu. More and more restaurants offer low-fat, low-cal, low-carb meal options. Before you visit a particular establishment, review their menu online to see if they offer healthy dishes that suit your tastes. If not, choose another restaurant. If you have a favorite establishment that doesn't currently offer low-fat, low-carb or low-calories options, you might suggest they develop a healthy fare menu.  

4. Order Off the Menu

At most restaurants, you don't have to limit your choices to the standard menu. If you are struggling to find something healthy to eat, you can order off the menu. Order healthier meals; ask for a pasta dish with sauce on the side. Or, order a simple chicken dish, grilled and no salt added. You can also have menu items prepared in a more healthful manner (e.g., have the skin removed from chicken, ask for vegetables to be prepared without cheese or cream, request salad dressing on the side, and ask for whole wheat pasta). Steps such as these can significantly lower the fat and calorie content of your meals.

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About the Author

Tyrone A. Holmes, Ed.D, CPT, is a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise and a Level 2 cycling coach through USA Cycling. He provides Cycle-Max Coaching for cyclists and multisport athletes who want to improve their performance on the bike and Healthy Life Coaching for individuals who want to lose weight and develop healthier lifestyles. His latest book is Developing Training Plans for Cyclists and Triathletes. Visit his website at www.holmesfitness.com and his Fitness Corner blog at www.doctorholmes.wordpress.com.

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