5 Ways to Make Eating Out Healthier

Restaurant meals don’t have to be diet busters


Resist temptation and set a good example by being the first at the table to order.

Image provided by Shutterstock

Let’s face it — sometimes a restaurant is a family’s destination for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The reasons to go out to eat vary as do the benefits to having a healthier restaurant meal. Next time you and your family go out to a restaurant, think about these five ways to make it healthier:

1. Do Your Homework. Do you check out a restaurant before going there? It’s always best to do some homework and check some menus before making a decision about your restaurant destination. By doing this, you’ll come away with a tasty and healthy experience, not just a night off from cooking. The Internet is one place to browse your local restaurants and other diners’ opinions of them. Also, consider making a phone call to ask the hostess what they offer for a family interested in healthier choices. Ask specifically about the kids’ menu, because it can be a deal-breaker if all that’s offered are fish and chips and a hotdog with fries.

2. Go First. Do you think about what’s on the restaurant menu and then make a smart decision about what you will order? Try ‘going first’ when the server comes to take your order. Why? Based on recent research at the University of Illinois, ‘going first’ eliminates peer pressure that could result in an unhealthy order. So, jump right in and ‘go first’ with your order. It will help you resist less healthy temptations. Also, your healthier order will be a powerful example to your kids.

3. Eat Slowly. How fast do you eat? Even when you eat away from home, mealtime is precious for strengthening relationships. Mealtime can help the entire family connect with one another, and it can help the kids improve their skills in conversation. The best way to encourage a family chat at the restaurant is for everyone to eat slowly. Period. Your fast-paced world can be put on hold for a bit, and your ability to digest dinner will improve, too. You may want to check out these tips for slowing down at meal and snack time.

4. Take Some Home. Do you plan for your restaurant meal to serve two? These days, you can pretty much count on that, so plan ahead and ask for a to-go box when you order, or bring your own. As soon as your meal is served, pack half of it into the to-go container and then enjoy a satisfying and calorie-smart meal. You will save money this way, too, with a tasty leftover meal to take home to the fridge. Kids’ menu meals may include a smaller serving size but, if not, use this same strategy and take some home.

5. Take a Walk. Do you balance your food with physical activity? Either before or after a restaurant meal, it’s a good idea to set aside time for a walk in the fresh air or air-conditioned mall. Ten or twenty minutes walking can make a huge difference in working off a shared dessert or serving of sweet potato fries. When the entire family takes a walk after a restaurant meal, think of the impact on your kids to manage calories in with calories out. Amazing!

Cindy Silver, one of our Fit Family Challenge experts, is a registered dietitian in Winston Salem who believes that simple food and home cooking are at the core of a healthy life. Her nutrition education business guides clients in a flavorful and fun, step-by-step journey to healthier eating. Cindy teaches hands-on, everyday skills and strategies in tasty menu planning, smart grocery shopping and nutritious home cooking, which may sound simple but, in reality, are not. With practice, Cindy believes that everyone can improve their personal and family nutrition, one step at a time. Visit her website at marketbasketnutrition.com.

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