Dining Out

By: Amber Tebeau



Dining out at a restaurant is a significant part of the American lifestyle.  Many Americans eat away from home several days a week.  Eating out, if done improperly, can put a person well over their calorie allotment for a day, which will eventually lead to weight gain.  Restaurant food can be full of hidden calories and the portion size can be two to three times what is recommended.  This week, one of my clients commented to me that she was going out to lunch and thought she was making healthy choices. She said that recently the restaurant posted the calorie counts on the menu.  It was not until the calories were posted on the menu that she realized her lunch was around 900 calories! 

When eating at a restaurant it is imperative to be educated on exactly what you are ordering and eating.  When I go out to eat there are several steps that I take to ensure I am eating a healthy meal. 

First, be proactive.  Always try to look up the restaurants website before you go to eat there.  Many websites have nutrition information for all of the items on their menu.  Seeing the nutrition information can be shocking, and many menus have meals with calorie counts of well over 1000.  You will be less likely to eat a meal if you know that it has more than half of the calories that you should consume in an entire day.  On a typical menu there are several healthy choices to choose from and it is helpful to go to the restaurant knowing what you can and cannot eat.  Some websites have a feature where you can build your meal.  You are able to add or remove items to see how it affects the calorie count and nutrition.  I have also found several sites that display healthy alternatives that are available, on their website menus; however these healthy options are not listed on the menu at the restaurant. 

Second, remember to order condiments on the side.  Ask to have the cheese, nuts, dressings and sauces on the side.  This enables you to control if you use the condiment or how much you use.  Dressing, nuts and cheeses can add significant calories to a salad and suddenly the salad can have as many calories as a greasy burger.  A Red Robin Crispy Chicken Tender Salad has 1400 calories, whereas a Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger and steak fries have 1284 calories.   Neither option is healthy, but many people are surprised to find that a salad can contain so many calories.

Third try to avoid any item that is cream based.  Cream based soups, sauces and dressings are packed full of calories.  It is better to choose a soup that has a vegetable or broth base, a sauce that has a tomato base and a dressing with an oil base.   Also be sure to avoid anything with mayonnaise, which is high in calories and fat.   Mayonnaise comes standard on many sandwiches and i some salad dressings may have a mayonnaise base.

Going out to eat can be an enjoyable and healthy event, as long as you are informed about your meal choices.  If you follow the three steps listed above you will be able to ensure that you are making a healthy choice and you are keeping your calories are under control.  Bon Appetite!


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