Do you struggle to eat healthy when dining out? Considering that most Americans dine out at least four times a week, its important to know how to navigate the menu and make nutritious choices. Though sometimes it's fun to splurge, doing so too often can wreak havoc on your health and your waistline.
How about some sample ideas to get you started? Following are some suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers, drinks and desserts that most restaurants will be able to accommodate. As you will see, you can still dine out, eat healthy AND have an enjoyable meal at the same time.
- Fresh fruit or a small glass of citrus or tomato juice
- Whole-grain bread, bagel or English muffin with a touch of jelly
- Whole-grain cereal with sliced banana and low-fat or nonfat milk
- Oatmeal with nonfat milk and fruit
- Vegetable omelet made with egg whites or egg substitute
- Two-egg (instead of 3-egg) vegetable omelet
- Two poached or scrambled eggs with whole-wheat toast (with butter on the side) and fruit
- Nonfat or low-fat yogurt
- Salads with lots of fresh, colorful vegetables; a serving of lean protein (skinless chicken, turkey, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, roast beef) and a spoonful of beans. A large spoonful of marinated vegetables or marinated three-bean salad can serve as your dressing.
- Sandwiches made with lean meats on whole-wheat bread or wraps. Add lettuce and tomato.
- Large bowl of bean or vegetable soup. Good choices include pasta fagioli, minestrone, chicken and vegetable, mushroom barley, beef and barley, lentil and split pea (without ham).
- Pizza with extra vegetable toppings and half the cheese. Forget the high-fat meats.
- Water with lemon.
- Flavored sparkling water (non-caloric).
- Juice spritzer (half fruit juice and half sparkling water).
- Iced tea, unsweetened.
- Tomato juice (reduced sodium).
- Limit alcohol, which is very high in calories and can prevent you from making healthy food choices.
- Shrimp or crab cocktail (limit cocktail sauce if watching sodium).
- Steamed seafood (clams, mussels, etc). Don't dredge in butter.
- Melons or fresh fruit.
- Bean or vegetable soups.
- Salads. Ask for reduced-fat dressing, or dressing on the side and use just a little. Lemon juice or vinegar adds no calories.
- Grilled chicken and fish.
- Pasta with red sauce or with vegetables (primavera). Avoid cream sauce. Ask for extra veggies and less pasta. Watch portions.
- Look for lower-fat, grilled or broiled entrées. Other good choices include those that are steamed, poached, roasted or baked in their own juices.
- Ask for sauces and dressings on the side.
- Limit the amount of butter, margarine and salt.
- Breaded, batter-dipped and tempura all mean fried, which means heavy in fat.
- Watch out for croissants, biscuits, quiches and pastries. Pick hard rolls, bread sticks, French bread or whole-wheat buns.
- For sauces, stick to wine or thinned, stock-based sauces. Avoid heavy butter sauces.
- Fresh greens, lettuce and spinach.
- Fresh vegetables, including tomato, mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers,peppers, onions, radishes, broccoli.
- Beans, chickpeas and kidney beans (not mixed in dressing).
- Dressings. Drizzle a small amount of balsamic or other vinaigrette and stretch with vinegar and/or lemon juice.
- Instead of dressing, pick a marinated salad. Use marinated mushrooms,artichoke hearts or cucumbers and tomatoes. Mix a large spoonful through salad.
- Ask for sides without butter or margarine.
- Ask for a steamed vegetable to go with your entrée.
- Ask for mustard, salsa or low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream or butter.
- Have a baked potato instead of French fries.
- Fresh fruit.
- Nonfat frozen yogurt.
- Sherbet or fruit sorbet. Ask for a small portion. They can be high in sugar and calories, but are usually low in fat.
- Share a dessert.
- Ask for low-fat milk for your coffee.