Making good food choices outside of your home
What to Know
- We tend to eat more food and less healthfully when eating out as compared to dining at home.
- With a rise in popularity of fast casual and fast food restaurants, people are eating out more frequently.
- You can control the amount and the quality of the food you choose when dining out with some planning.
- Portion sizes tend to be large at restaurants, and may be enough to serve two people.
Eating out, especially when you’re pregnant or have little ones at home, has so much appeal: someone else preps, cooks and serves the food and you don’t even have to clean up! But when we eat out, we tend to eat more food and less healthfully than if we were to cook at home. People are eating out more with the surge in popularity of fast casual restaurants, grab-and-go foods, and seemingly healthier fast food establishments. Before you dine out, keep these tips in mind to make good food choices.
When choosing a meal, scan the menu for one that incorporates healthy protein (like chicken, fish, tofu), whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole grain bread) and fruit and/or vegetables. Many restaurants skimp on the vegetable portion of a meal, so order a double side of vegetables or a side salad to ensure you’re getting enough.
Typically, portions are large at restaurants, and may be enough to serve two. Try to mimic the amount you’d eat at home if you were to create the same dish, and box up any leftovers to enjoy the next day. Be choosy when it comes to extras such as cocktails, bread and butter, appetizers and side dishes. These can add hundreds of calories to your meal and are often times low in any satisfying nutrients such as fiber or protein.
Scan the entire menu before making your selection. You may find there’s a veggie-packed side dish on an entree you’re not choosing that can be substituted for something on your plate, or the option to grill or bake your fish or chicken instead of frying it.
Grocery stores make great options for finding healthy meals and snacks, even when you’re on the go. Many grocery stores have a prepared food section with fresh sandwiches, sushi, and a salad bar. All grocery stores have yogurt, fresh fruit or vegetables, whole grain crackers, cheese, nuts, bottled water, and a wide variety of other nutritious “to-go” options.
If you’re frequently on the go, be sure to have healthy, satisfying snacks on hand so you’re not forced to purchase vending machine or convenience store snacks. Nuts and granola bars are relatively shelf stable so can be stored in your purse, car or desk, while perishable snacks like yogurt, string cheese, and fresh fruit are great options to have if you’re able to eat them within a couple hours.
What to Do
- Choose meals with a balance of healthy protein, whole grains and produce.
- Eat the amount you’d normally eat when dining at home, as restaurant portion sizes are typically large.
- Avoid too many “extras” like bread, cocktails, appetizers and desserts when dining out.
- Scan the entire menu to know all of your options.
- Order extra vegetables or a side salad with your meal to ensure you’re filling up on produce.
- Look to grocery stores as another option to make healthy choices when eating outside the home.
- Have nutritious snacks such as nuts, trail mix, fresh fruit or granola bars on hand for healthy snacking outside the home.
“Meals at 92 percent of Dining Establishments Tip the Scales” Sciency Daily. Date accessed 1 August, 2018. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160120091704.htm>
“What is MyPlate?” Choosemyplate.gov. Date accessed 1 August, 2018. <https://www.choosemyplate.gov/>