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5 Healthy Tips for Dining Out: Follow These Simple Steps Can Help You Make Smart Choices

Sep. 20 2023, Published 3:53 p.m. ET

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Here are five healthy tips for dining out. If you follow these simple steps, you can help avoid unwanted (and often sneaky) weight gain from eating out at restaurants.

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1. Plan ahead.

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“One of the best ways to ensure you make healthy choices when eating out is to check the menu before you arrive, whether online or in person,” advise the experts at the British Heart Foundation. “It means you can choose your meal without others influencing you. Many larger restaurant chains offer nutritional information online.”

2. Start smart.

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To avoid overeating, “drink a big glass of water as soon as you sit down. It's been shown to help you eat less,” says the CDC. “[And] skip the chips and salsa or bread that comes to your table before you order. Better yet, ask your server to remove them.”

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3. Say no to the ‘boss.’

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"Whenever possible, ask that your meal be prepared without butter, oil, salt and sugar,” explains Shayna Komar, a dietitian with Georgia's Piedmont HealthCare. “Ask for your vegetables steamed with butter on the side, request that no salt be added to your entree, and ask for salad dressing, sauces and creams on the side. You can still have butter, oil, salt and sugar, but this strategy allows you to control how much you consume.”

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4. Take a side bet.

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“Many entrees come with food on the side,” explain the folks at the Health Start Foundation. “Often, the main choice for the side Is fried food like french fries or tater tots. However, they are more than happy to substitute fruits or veggies for fried items at many restaurants. Making the substitution can help increase the number of nutrients on your plate and better fuel your body.”

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5. Portion it out.

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Don't bag the doggie bag! as the experts at the USDA are quick to point out: “When ordering food, portions can be very large. So consider sharing a meal with someone else or making two meals out of it by saving half for the next day.” Also, you can try ordering an appetizer and side salad as your meal or ordering a lunch portion.

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