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Diet and Nutrition

Dining Out - Hold the Calories!

With rising gas prices, food prices, and a depressed economy, most Americans are tightening their budgets and cutting down on the number of meals eaten at restaurants. Yet we still consume an average of 2.3 evening meals per week at restaurants. So here are some simple ways to make those dinners a bit healthier.

Be choosy!

Take time to read the menu. Many restaurants mark their healthier menu items with a symbol, such as a heart or vegetable. Don't automatically order that burger and fries. Even fast food restaurants offer healthier options, such as baked or grilled entrees, salads, low-fat salad dressings, fruit, and low-fat milk.

Think small.

The portion sizes in restaurants are generally double or triple the recommended amount, so when possible:

  1. Order a "half size" portion
  2. Order a child's or senior's portion
  3. Place half the item in a "take-home" container before you begin to eat
  4. Share your meal with your dinner partner

And of course, NEVER supersize ... the cost savings are not worth the extra calories!

On the side, please.

Ask for salad dressings, cream sauces, and cheese sauces on the side so that you can drizzle them over your food or you can just dip your fork in them. You will still enjoy the taste with just a small number of calories.

Watch those beverages!

Studies show that calories in liquids are not as satiating as calories in solid foods. So avoid high-calorie, sweetened soft drinks, lemonade, specialty coffees, and whole milk. If in doubt, choose refreshing water with a slice of lemon or lime.

A few other tips for cutting 100 calories or more:

Lastly, slow your pace of eating and enjoy your mealtime by socializing and relaxing. Bon Appetit!

This article originally appeared in Nutri-bytes (October 2008), a service of the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.

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Last Reviewed: Oct 09, 2008

Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD
Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati