With the significant increase in obesity over the past 40 years, it is important for families to practice simple strategies for achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. One of these strategies can be making healthier choices at restaurants. Completely eliminating fast-food and dining-out is not realistic for most families. Instead, making small, healthy changes when eating out can help families choose more nutritious meals that contain less fat, added sugar, and calories. Here are some useful strategies to help you and your family make better choices when eating out.
One thing families can do before arriving at the restaurant is to use the restaurant’s website to identify healthier options. Studying a restaurant’s online menu at home is good way to help family members learn to identify healthier choices and discuss the importance of eating healthy.
At a restaurant, families can also read the descriptions of the food on the menu to help them detect items they should stay away from. For example, dishes labeled deep-fried, pan-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, au gratin or in cream sauce are high in calories, unhealthy fats and sodium. A healthier option is to choose foods that are labeled as baked or broiled. If families are not sure how a meal is prepared, they should ask the server about the method of preparation and don’t be afraid to ask if the food item can be prepared by another method of cooking or with less fat.
If your family enjoys eating at a buffet, take the time to review the principles of Myplate. MyPlate recommends everyone to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. 30% of your plate should include grains and half of these should be whole grains. The remaining 20% of your plate should include a source of lean protein such as baked fish, grilled chicken or lean beef. Choose a low or non-fat dairy product to go along with your meal such as 1% milk or non-fat yogurt. For more information on myplate visit www.choosemyplate.gov Another simple change is to not drink sweetened beverages but ask for water or sugar-free options. This will help decrease the calorie consumption for the entire meal.
These are just a few ideas to help families make better choices when dining out. Incorporating changes, such as these, can help move families move toward a healthier lifestyle.