Tips for Dining Out 

Most people can’t avoid dining out. You may also feel it’s necessary at times to stop at the drive-through of fast food restaurants and eat in the car to accommodate your busy schedule.

Just because you can’t eat healthy when dining out doesn’t mean you can’t eat healthier.

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For example, if you order a Burger King Whopper without the cheese and mayo, you’ll reduce the fat by almost 50%, the cholesterol by more than 35%, and the calories by almost 30%, according to the nutrition information at Burger King’s website.

Compare a serving of a Domino’s pizza with sausage and pepperoni to a serving with mushrooms, onions and green peppers. The veggie pizza has approximately 35%less fat, 20% fewer calories, 50% of the cholesterol and 30% less sodium.

So, while a hamburger or pizza may not be anyone’s definition of health food, a burger without the mayo and cheese and a veggie pizza are healthier fast-food options if you can’t give up your favorites.

Substitute Ingredients

Keeping this type of food substitution in mind, you can begin to shift your eating to even healthier options without giving up comfort foods or subsisting on tofu and sprouts. For example, skip the hamburger in spaghetti sauce and order tomato instead of Alfredo sauce. Order a vegetable soup instead of a cream-based one. Have a bean burrito with salsa and avocado instead of one with ground beef, cheese and sour cream.

You can also order dishes that aren’t on the menu. Even during busy times, kitchens mighy at least modify menu items. For example, ask for crushed nuts or a sprinkle of sesame seeds on your salad instead of croutons. Ask to hold the mayo and cheese on a burger and for extra tomatoes and lettuce. When you order French onion soup, ask for no crouton or cheese. Skip the cheese and sour cream that comes with chili. Ask for salsa with a baked potato instead of sour cream, cheese and bacon. Try fajitas with back beans instead of steak or chicken.

Be realistic when you order items that aren’t on the menu. If you go to a chain restaurant and ask for Alfredo sauce made with skim milk, low-fat cheese, no butter and egg whites only, the kitchen most likely won’t be able to do that, since they pre-make their Alfredo sauce and don’t make it for each order.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many restaurants put all their orders into a computer—they may not be able to enter a completely new dish you order, even if the chef could make it. Ask for a simple substitution a busy chef can make when you consider your dining options.

Fast-Food Tips

•Hold the mayo and cheese on hamburgers and other sandwiches. Add more lettuce and tomatoes for extra moisture.

•Order grilled chicken sandwiches instead of fried.

•If you don’t like diet soda, fill your cup with 50% diet, then 50% regular; you likely won’t notice the difference. Start with a smaller mix, if you eventually want to get to 75%/25%.

•Order thin crust pizza, skip the meat and ask for half cheese on your pizza. Many pies come with a double layer.

•Order a bean burrito. Skip the sour cream and cheese and add salsa.

Sit-Down Restaurant Tips

•Order a glass of water and drink at least half with your meal, even if you order soda. It’s a myth that water with your meal dilutes your stomach enzymes and interferes with digestion.

•Start every meal with a cup (not a bowl) of low-fat soup or a salad. Skip the crackers and bread with it.

•Don’t eat more than five chips if you get a basket of chips and salsa.

•Have a snack before you go to a sit-down restaurant. By the time you wait for friends, chat and order, you are likely to be very hungry and order more than you need. “Spoil” your lunch or dinner to prevent overeating.

•Order off the menu. Ask for simple substitutions to existing dishes, not for new items.

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