Most people find it easier to stick to a healthy diet when they’re at home and can plan their meals. But eating in restaurants, in your car, or at your desk is often a reality of modern life.
The following strategies from the American Heart Association and other experts can help you choose sensible foods when you’re out and about:
Check out restaurant websites. If you frequent a particular fast-food chain, go online and print out the nutrition information. This can help you make healthier choices, keeping calories and fat content in mind.
Don’t super-size your meal. In most cases, the regular-sized meal will provide more than enough calories, energy, and hunger satisfaction. Large-sized meals, for pennies more, may seem like a deal, but they are not, as far as your health and weight are concerned.
Be particular. Order meals for which you can specify toppings and extras. Often it’s the extras that add pound-packing calories. For example, topping a salad with fat-free salad dressing instead of regular dressing can save you as much as 250 calories per serving. Choosing mustard instead of mayo saves at least 100 calories.
Avoid fried food. Order a ham or turkey sandwich, for instance, instead of a battered-and-fried chicken or fish sandwich. That will save you hundreds of calories and probably a dozen or more fat grams.
Order healthy side dishes. Whenever possible, choose a side salad, fruit cup, chili, or a cup of soup instead of fried potatoes.
Keep healthy snacks in your car. If you are often on the run, keep a cooler stocked with bottled water, fresh fruit, or whole-grain nutrition bars so you can get an energy boost without being tempted by fast food.
Remember to count beverage calories. Shakes, sodas, specialty coffee drinks, and alcoholic beverages can add hundreds of calories to your meal.
Avoid buffet or all-you-can-eat restaurants. If you have no choice, limit yourself to one plate of healthy foods, emphasizing steamed vegetables, grilled meat, and a green salad.
Keep a stash of healthy food at your desk. This will help you to avoid the high-fat snacks available in vending machines. Whole-wheat crackers, fat-free microwave popcorn in 100-calorie packs, dried fruit, and low-fat cereal bars are easy options.
Skip any dishes that are smothered, crispy, crusted, or battered and fried. These terms all add up to extra calories and fat.