Making healthier choices when eating out is easier if you prepare ahead by checking guides that show you the nutritional content of meal choices at your favorite restaurants. Many fast food chains post nutritional information on their websites, but we don’t always have time for that.
If you can’t prepare ahead of time, there are some common sense tips can help. Portion control is the most important; many fast food restaurants serve enough food for several meals. So, if nothing else, just cut your meal into two. Also, another easy fix is to choose carry-out. Bringing your meal home with you can help you avoid extra servings and meal starters like bread and butter or chips and queso.
Now, for some general tips for making healthier choices:
- Purchase your main dish from a restaurant, but bring your own fruit side to help avoid unhealthy side items like French fries.
- Dishes labeled deepfried, panfried, basted, batterdipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, au gratin, or in cream sauce are usually high in calories, unhealthy fats, or sodium. Order steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes instead.
- Choose main dishes that include vegetables, such as stir fries, kebobs, or pasta with a tomato sauce.
- Drink water with your meal. Soda is a huge source of hidden calories. One 32oz Big Gulp of regular cola packs about 425 calories, which can quickly gulp up a big portion of your daily calorie intake. Try adding a little lemon to your water or ordering unsweetened iced tea.
- “Undress” your food. When choosing items, be aware of calorie and fatpacked salad dressings, spreads, cheese, sour cream, etc. For example, ask for a grilled chicken sandwich without the mayonnaise. You can ask for a packet of ketchup or mustard and add it yourself, controlling how much you put on your sandwich.
- Special order. Ask for your vegetables and main dishes to be served without the sauces. Ask for olive oil and vinegar for your salads or order the dressing “on the side” and spoon only a small amount on at a time. If your food is fried or cooked in oil or butter, ask to have it broiled or steamed.
- Eat mindfully. Pay attention to what you eat and savor each bite. Chew your food more thoroughly and avoid eating on the run. Being mindful also means stopping before you are full. It takes time for your body to register that you have eaten. Mindful eating relaxes you, so you digest better, and makes you feel more satisfied.