Cooking meals at home is usually best for your family’s health; it allows you to control portion sizes, ingredients and food preparation techniques. Restaurant chefs often make meals less nutritious by adding salt, sugar, and fat to foods during preparation- not mention that they may serve very large portions that encourage overeating.
But for busy families, eating out is not only sometimes necessary, it can also be a fun way to experience new foods with your family. To get the most nutrition when you eat foods away from home, follow these simple tips:
- Become menu savvy. Learn which words to look for when you need to make quick, healthy choices from the menu. Order foods that have been baked, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted or steamed. Avoid foods that have been fried, breaded, creamed or sauteed (these cooking methods usually pack extra fat and calories).
- Hold the sauce. Ask for no sauce or sauce on the side. Avoid mayonnaise, butter, or cream-based sauces altogether and try to order lower-fat options like au jus (meaning in its own juices), or sauces that are vinegar-, tomato- or lemon-based when you can.
- The whole family can order from the kids’ menu! The kid’s menu often offers smaller portion sizes that are healthier for adults too. Don’t be afraid to opt for the smaller portion when dining out to spare yourself unnecessary calories.
- Sharing is caring. If smaller portions aren’t available, try sharing a meal with your child or spouse. You can also split 2-3 entrees among your family for a chance to try several different menu options. (This tip can also save a few dollars when it comes to paying the bill!)
- Take it to go. As soon as you place your order, ask for a to-go box so that you can pack half your plate to take home. Restaurant portions are often twice as large as what you would eat at home, and you might as well get two meals for the price of one!
- Don’t drink your calories. Calories from drinks don’t fill you up the same way that calories from food do, so it’s best to avoid them. Order plain water when you’re dining out to save calories (and a few dollars at the cash register).
- Pile on the veggies. If you’re ordering a sandwich, sub, or wrap, ask for double the veggies to boost your daily servings and help you fill up on the right stuff so you won’t be tempted to opt for fries or dessert. Ask if you can swap a side of steamed veggies or a salad instead of French fries.
- Just say no to Supersize. If the cashier asks you if you’d like to Supersize your meal, just say no.
And lastly, enjoy your meal! Dining out can be a fun experience for your family to share and provides a chance to try foods that you wouldn’t normally cook at home. Ordering something from the menu that you’ve never eaten before and you may discover a new food that you like or a new way to prepare a family favorite. Follow the tips above to steer clear of unhealthy menu traps and you can have a fun and healthy experience eating out with your family!