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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Nelson, RD, LD

How to Make Healthy Choices When Dining Out

We’ve all been there; you just made a decision to improve your diet, but your morning errands took longer than expected and now you don’t have time to go home for lunch. You pull out your phone to see what restaurants are nearby. What should you look for?

Eating out is tough when trying to eat nutritious meals, especially if you’re in a hurry and need something drive-thru-fast. Unfortunately most restaurants don’t make nutrition their number one priority. Fast food, especially, is known for its heart-attack-in-a-sack meals; have you seen Supersize Me? Even though it’s tricky to find good-for-you meals when eating out, it should be fun, tasty and enjoyable to grab something on-the-go or when going out with friends and family. The best part is not having to clean up the kitchen – am I right? Here are a few tips to help you stay on track when eating at a restaurant.

(1) Fast food options: need something super-fast? Avoid the traditional fried fast food restaurants and try to find a place with fresh and wholesome ingredients. A few personal favorites that you can find almost anywhere are Chipotle, Qdoba and Panera. There are great choices and not-so-great choices at each of these places, but lots of great choices to choose from like salads and build your own bowls.

(2) Sit down restaurants: most sit-down restaurants will have lots of options to choose from. Yes they may have burgers and fries, but they most likely also have grilled protein options with veggies. At almost every sit-down restaurant I can find either a delicious salad or grilled fish/meat with veggies. My go-to is grilled salmon (they always cook it better than I do) with broccoli and sweet potatoes.

(3) Ask yourself: what is the HEALTHIEST option on the menu that also sounds delicious? Get that.

(4) Fill half your plate with veggies, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with carbs (like fruit, sweet potatoes or brown rice). Use this method of eating at home and at restaurants and it makes choosing a meal simple!

(5) Going someplace new? Look at the menu AHEAD OF TIME and make your decision before you get to the restaurant. It’s always hard to look at a new menu while talking to friends at dinner anyway, so this trick helps you be more prepared and you don’t have to miss out on conversation.

(6) Ask for a to-go box: when the waiter/waitress brings your meal out do you notice the portions are huge? Automatically ask for a to-go box from the get-go and put half of your meal in the box. Now you get to enjoy it again tomorrow!

(7) Enjoy! Using all of these methods when dining out takes the stress out of getting off track, and you will feel great afterwards and ready to take on the rest of the day!

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