Eating out is convenient — and going to restaurants can be fun — but it’s not always healthy. The good news is that many restaurants and fast-food companies are working to create healthier options. Take care of your heart with the knowledge behind healthy nutrition options and make smarter fast food and restaurant choices for yourself and your family. Since you don’t always know what’s in your food, follow these tips to make healthier choices:
Get the nutrition facts
Many fast-food chains and restaurants offer menus with nutrition information. If it’s not displayed on site, you can often find the information on the restaurant’s website. You can also ask for a vegetarian or gluten-free menu — many restaurants have them. Think about choices that will limit cholesterol, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium.
Order water with your meal
Sweetened teas, sugary sodas and juices add calories and make eating out more expensive. Stay hydrated and skip unwanted calories with a simpler (and free) choice: water. If you like flavored drinks, ask for water with lime, lemon, cucumber or strawberries for a refreshing, low-calorie treat.
Pile on the veggies
Many restaurants offer meals or entrees that come with fries or other fatty choices. Opt out of the norm and ask for a salad, vegetables or fruits instead.
Ask for a to-go box
When your server brings your food, ask for a to-go box and separate your meal into what you’ll eat now and what you’ll eat later. You’re less likely to eat more than you need. Enjoy your leftovers for your next meal.
Order dressings and sauces on the side
Not all salads and entrée options are healthy, especially if they’re smothered in dressing or sauce. Ask for it on the side to control how much you consume. You can also see if low-sodium and low-calorie options are available.
Make the best menu choice
Get the whole family involved in choosing the “best” item on the menu with a challenge to find the healthiest items. Look for foods with the lowest saturated fat content and added sugars, and that are low in calories, sodium and cholesterol. Keep a tally of who wins and continue the competition each time you eat out. Try new dishes. Healthy habits are created one step at a time.