Tips for healthier eating.. when eating out

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Anybody with access to newspapers, magazines or the Internet should be well aware of the growing epidemic of obesity in our country. Restaurant meals with oversized portions of greasy, sugary comfort foods have been singled out as one of the leading causes.

Often our hectic lives make sitting down to home cooked dinner as a family difficult or even impossible. Being able to make sensible choices in a restaurant offers a reasonable alternative to greasy fast food or skipping important commitments. Here are three useful tips to help make sound decisions when eating out.

Is Fast Food All That Fast?

Fast food restaurants are very popular because they are perceived as being quick. In reality, between the long lines, waiting for food to be prepared and checking out, it may not be any more efficient than eating in another kind of restaurant.

Another speedy option is a locally owned ethnic food restaurant with a dinner buffet. You

can begin to eat as soon as you are seated. If you request a check and pay your bill while your family is eating, you can leave immediately after dinner.

The best part about eating at ethnic restaurants is that the selection is more likely to include fresh produce and lean meats.

For example, choose skinless tandoori chicken, curried vegetables, salad and whole wheat flatbreads with yogurt cucumber salad in Indian restaurants.

Asian buffets offer many kinds of stir fried or grilled vegetables and meat. They may also offer brown rice as a whole grain option.

Even the family style buffet restaurants have some nutritious options, but it’s important to look carefully to avoid the refined starches bathed in high fat sauces.

Salad bars at buffets almost always have a wide variety of fresh vegetables and condiments, making a meal sized salad satisfying and delicious. Baked potatoes are fun to top with steamed plain vegetables, a moderate amount of butter and grated cheese from the pasta bar.

How Much Food Do You Really Need?

The markup on dishes in restaurants is fairly high, so it’s in their best interest to convince the diners to order as much as possible. Serving food on large dishes makes portions seem more reasonable.

If the entree is being shared or leftovers are brought home for the next day, this is not a problem, but most people will try to finish the entire serving.

One way to prevent overeating at a restaurant is to ask for a takeout container to be brought to the table when the meal first arrives. Divide the portion in half and package it up right away, removing all temptation to finish the food.

If you are not going to be going home right away, you may live in a neighbor where a homeless person would gladly take your leftovers.

Another way to keep from ordering too much food is to select a dish from the appetizer

menu rather than the main courses. These servings are generally appropriate for one adult. The downside to this is that hors d’eourves tend to be more expensive.

It also may be necessary to order a salad or side dish of vegetables in order to have a balanced meal.

Communication Is Key

Never be afraid to ask questions. If your waiter is unaware of the ingredients in the dish you want, he can ask the cook. When eating in a fast food restaurant, there are detailed ingredient and nutrition guides for every item on the menu. Use this information to make your decisions wisely.

In most cases, sauces and gravies can be left off of the meal upon request and salad dressing can always be served on the side. Nobody will question a request for olive oil and vinegar dressed salad, either.

However, meats left in marinades may not be available without these seasonings, so it’s important to ask.

Eating in restaurants is convenient for busy families. With some careful thought before choosing a restaurant and ordering, it’s possible to make selections that are tasty, nutritious and served in a timely fashion.

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