Do you know how to eat healthy at a restaurant? Put yourself to the test.
True or false: If I’m eating out, I may as well go hog wild, because it’s all bad for me.
FALSE Yes, food we eat at restaurants tends to have more calories, fat, salt and sugar than food we prepare at home. But you can eat out and make healthy choices; it just requires some effort. It’s well worth it to prioritize both your health and your social life.
True or false: I should ask for my sauces on the side.
TRUE Putting sauces, dressings, syrup and even butter on the side and just dipping your fork in as desired can save calories because you end up consuming less. (It also saves you from soggy salad.) Consider where you can swap less healthy sauces for better choices, such as mustard instead of mayo and vinaigrette instead of ranch dressing.
True or false: Most calories come from what I eat, not from what I drink.
IT DEPENDS If you’re doing it right, yes. But drinks are a great place for calories and carbohydrates to hide out. A 16-ounce Coke has 190 calories — and with free refills, you can guzzle three of them before you know it. Sweetened iced teas and lemonades are sugar bombs. And if you decide to have an alcoholic beverage, the calories add up even faster. A typical restaurant margarita packs more than 300 calories, 32 grams of sugar and 41 grams of carbohydrates.
True or false: I should look for words like “grilled,” “baked” or “steamed” on the menu.
TRUE These cooking methods retain flavor without adding a ton of fat or salt. You probably already know that words like “fried,” “breaded,” “battered” and “stuffed” signal more calories, fat, salt and refined carbohydrates. And Google terms if you need to: “au gratin” is just French for smothered in cheese and bread crumbs.
True or false: I have to take the meal the way it’s described on the menu.
FALSE Speak up! You can find ways to make your meal healthier. Ask for a side salad or vegetable instead of fries, or a noncream-based soup. You also can ask about the cooking methods and which kind of oils are being used to prepare the food. The healthiest kinds are monounsaturated oils such as olive oil and canola oil and polyunsaturated oils like soybean oil.
True or false: I can’t eat healthfully at a fast food restaurant.
FALSE It may not be easy, but it is possible! Fast food chains now carry several salad options and grilled meats. (Just don’t think ordering a salad is a pass; if it’s covered in bacon, ham, cheese and ranch dressing, it’s still an indulgence.) If you order a burger, try skipping the bun or the cheese. If you have to have fries, get the smallest size. Just like at a sit-down restaurant, you can look for opportunities to cut calories.
True or false: A big indulgent restaurant meal means I’ve ruined my diet.
FALSE (Almost) no one wants to eat healthy all the time. Expecting perfection from yourself and your diet often backfires, leading to stress and overeating. Be kind to yourself; if you eat a bunch of fatty, salty food at dinner one night, forget about it and get back on track right away. You didn’t “ruin” anything; it’s about how you eat over the long term that matters.
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