Dietitian's Dish: Make good choices when eating out

Loretta Cordes

By Loretta Cordes

In the past, eating out was only done on special occasions. Today, eating out has become a daily occurrence for the majority of Americans. Those individuals who are watching their weight can be presented with some challenges when making choices at a restaurant.

Here are some suggestions to make eating out enjoyable and still make health-conscious decisions:

1. Know your restaurant options when eating out. This will help you be more aware of the healthy choices that are available.

2. Realize that a buffet place might present a problem with portion control.

3. Save eating out for special occasions. This will save you calories and money.

4. Budget your calories. If you know you are going to eat out for dinner, then make healthy choices for breakfast and lunch.

5. Ask questions to your waiter or waitress if the description of the food on the menu is not clear. This will allow you to make an informed decision.

6. Do not be afraid to ask for substitutions.

7. You do not have to eat all the food that comes on your plate. Share your meal with a friend or family member. Put half your meal in a to-go box when your meal arrives at the table.

8. Ask for your salad dressing to be served on the side and dip your fork in the salad dressing with each bite of the salad. This will allow you to have a taste of salad dressing with each bite.

9. Select baked, broiled, steamed, grilled choices instead of fried items. This will save you fat and calories.

10. When eating at a Chinese restaurant, avoid fried rice and any deep-fried or breaded items. Choose stir-fried chicken, shrimp or vegetable items.

11. At Italian restaurants, choose red sauces over the cream sauces. Limit those items that are made with a lot of cheeses.

12. When eating at a Mexican restaurant, realize that refried beans are usually made with lard. An 8-oz. margarita can have as many as 360 calories. Guacamole and deep-fried tortilla chips can add additional calories and fat.

13. Try to avoid all the extras that come with your meal, such as bread and butter, appetizers and desserts. When ordering a baked potato ask for the toppings to be served on the side.

14. Sweetened beverages and alcoholic beverages provide empty calories (calories with little or no nutritional value).

For more information on how to make healthy food choices, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

Loretta Cordes is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with a Master's of Science Degree in Human Sciences and Certified Diabetes Educator. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.