15 Tips for Eating Healthy While Dining Out | MedStar Health

15 Tips for Eating Healthy While Dining Out

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A woman enjoys a bowl of food in a restaraunt.

With Bonita Coe, MD, MBA, Director of MedStar Medical Group Waldorf 

When eating out, remember that restaurant food is inherently high in calories and salt. However, many restaurants have healthy options and provide calorie and nutrition information on their menus, which can help you choose healthier food options. 

Here are 15 tips from Dr. Coe to help you focus on eating healthy when you’re grabbing a meal on the go:

  1. Avoid sweetened beverages, juices and alcohol. Instead, order water with lemon or sugar-free choices as your beverage.

  2. Drink water frequently during the meal to achieve the sensation of feeling full faster.

  3. Many restaurant portions are much larger than you need or even want to eat. When your food comes to you, place half of it in a take-home box.

  4. Focus on ordering choices with fruits and vegetables as the predominant ingredients.

  5. If you are going to eat meat, avoid beef and focus on choices with chicken, turkey, and fish that are baked, roasted or grilled, and not fried.

  6. Avoid processed meats, like deli meats, bacon, ham, and sausage, including the turkey versions of these foods.

  7. Avoid salty snacks and sugary foods, pastries, candy and baked goods.

  8. Avoid choices rich with butter and rich sauces, as they are typically high in fat.

  9. Minimize starchy foods like bread, rice, pasta and white potatoes. Substitute the starch in a meal for another vegetable. If you are going to eat starches, whole wheat or whole grain bread and pasta are better choices.
  10. Ask the server not to bring bread to the table while you are waiting for your meal.

  11. Do not add salt to your food. Only add salt to your food on your plate after you have tasted your food. Use salt very sparingly, if at all.

  12. Avoid choices made with eggs and cheese.

  13. When planning to go out to eat or to an event, eat a small healthy snack before you go. You will eat less and be able to make healthier choices because you are not as hungry when you are ordering your meal.

  14. Avoid salad bars, hot food bars, and pre-prepared food venues, unless you are going to eat the fresh fruit and vegetables. Be aware that a lot of food put into salads bars comes out of a can, box or plastic pre-prepared package, which typically means it is high in sodium.

  15. Try ordering salads with the dressing on the side and avoid fried foods and foods with sauces and gravy on top.
Guide to healthy menu substitutions when eating out 

Breakfast at McDonald’s

Egg McMuffin: 300 calories, 12 grams of fat, 730 milligrams of sodium Vs.
Big Breakfast with hotcakes and syrup, biscuit, scrambled eggs, sausage and hash browns: 1,350 calories, 65 grams of fat, 2,100 milligrams of sodium

Lunch at Subway

6 Inch Carved Turkey Sandwich: 330 calories, 5 grams of fat, 890 milligrams of sodium Vs.
6 Inch Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt: 770 calories, 81 grams of fat, 1,580 milligrams of sodium

Afternoon Snack at Starbucks

Cold option - Teavana® Shaken Iced Passion Tango™ Tea: 0 calories, 0 grams of fat 
Hot Option - Caffè Americano: 10 calories, 0 grams of fat Vs.
Cold Option - Venti Unicorn Frappuccino: 500 calories, 18 grams of fat, 310 milligrams of sodium
Hot Option - Venti White Chocolate Mocha: 530 calories, 21 grams of fat, 320 milligrams of sodium

Dinner at Taco Bell

Grilled Steak Soft Taco: 200 calories, 10 grams of fat, 490 milligrams of sodium
Chicken Soft Taco: 160 calories, 5 grams of fat, 480 milligrams of sodium Vs.
XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito: 860 calories, 41 grams of fat, 2,200 milligrams of sodium

Late Night Snack

Baskin Robbins Right Choices Fat Free Vanilla Frozen Yogurt: 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 65 milligrams of sodium Vs.
Cheesecake Factory Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake: 1680 calories, 49 grams of fat, 970 milligrams of sodium