6 Strategies for Dining Out Healthfully

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People are often surprised to see me in the line at a fast food restaurant. I may be “Dr. Jo”, but I’m still just your average “Jo.” And, the average Joe here in the US (according to the National Restaurant Association) eats out five times a week!

So, how does the average “Jo” with a PhD in nutrition eat out in restaurants and maintain a normal, healthy weight? Here are my tips:

  • Know Thyself. If you overeat when you get too hungry, plan an earlier meal. If you just can’t help but finish everything on your plate, then split a meal or order a smaller portion. If you overdo dessert, then don’t even look at the menu!
  • Pick Your Pleaser, Skip Your Teasers. Before ordering I ask myself what I’m craving (my “pleaser”) and I plan my meal around it. That way it’s easy to avoid all those “teaser” foods that aren’t really as good.
  • Do Your Research. Let’s face it, those tantalizing descriptions on the menu make you want to order everything! Before you go, review the online menu and nutrition information to plan what you will order.
  • Call the Manager. If you have any questions about the menu while researching online, call the restaurant manager (servers rarely know what actually goes on in the kitchen). The manager knows portion sizes, added ingredients, and what substitutions can be made. I’ve found that fats and oils are added to almost everything (including “steamed” veggies) – that’s a “teaser” I can do without.
  • Be Predictable. I have a few favorites (that I know won’t blow my calorie budget) at every restaurant. I order the Guiltless Grillers at Chili’s. It’s the BK Whopper Jr (no mayo) or the BK Veggie Burger at Burger King. At Outback Steakhouse, I’ll generally order the petite sirloin, salmon, or the scallops. My book, Eat Out Healthy, offers plenty of the better options.
  • Be Mindful. Dr. Brian Wansink, the author of Mindless Eating, reminds us to eat slowly and savor every bite! You’ll enjoy the food more, feel full faster, and eat less!

Dr. Jo® Lichten is a PhD nutritionist, registered dietitian, and the author of several books including Eat Out Healthy. As a professional speaker, she keynotes at conferences and conventions about how busy people can stay healthy, sane, and productive. Her latest book, Reboot Your Energy, will be published in 2013.

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