Life does not slow down in the fast food lane for most families. With value menus and drive through windows, eating out can be a convenient and economical option for busy families. However, with obesity and chronic diseases reaching epidemic rates, it is important that families make informed choices. Setting good examples and teaching children how to make healthy choices in restaurants are important lessons in today’s day and age. Here are a few healthy tips when eating out:
Reduce fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol
- Choose plain burgers, or beef or grilled chicken sandwiches; leave off the sauce, mayonnaise, cheese, and bacon.
- Choose regular yellow mustard.
- Avoid or limit fried foods—fish, chicken, French fries, onion rings, etc.
- Select broiled or grilled instead of fried.
- Drink water or 1% or skim milk.
- Order your tacos on a plain soft tortilla.
- Skip croissants and biscuits.
- Eat raw veggies and green salads with a low-fat oil-based dressing.
- Choose small portions; don’t choose a large or up-sized value meal.
- Skip dessert.
- Use less ketchup, pickle relish, honey mustard, jelly, honey, BBQ sauce, etc.
- Avoid gelatin salads.
- Avoid sweetened fruits at the salad bar—use fresh fruit instead.
- Avoid sweetened soft drinks and shakes—ask for milk, water
- Skip sweet desserts.
- Say no to pickles.
- Limit salad dressings—use a lemon wedge instead.
- Avoid processed poultry and meat (chicken nuggets, some roast beef).
- Limit sausage, ham, bacon, and biscuits.
- Don’t add table salt to meals.
- Limit cheese.
- Choose fresh vegetables and fruits at the salad bar.
- Select sandwiches with tomatoes and lettuce.
- Choose whole grain or multi-grain buns.
- Eat baked potatoes and the skins—go easy on the toppings.
- Choose foods that include dry beans—burritos, chili, salad bar toppings.
Other tips to remember
- Breakfasts are easy to make at home; buy prepackaged 6-ounce yogurts and have quick items such as cereals, bagels, English muffins, juice, and milk on hand.
- Frozen, low-fat healthy meals that are microwaveable will provide correct serving sizes and are easy to prepare. These are convenient meals for lunch or dinner.
- Weekly meals should be a combination of quick cooking ideas, frozen dinners, and supplemental foods (fresh, frozen, canned, and deli). Try to limit eating out when possible.
- Choose a lighter option such as fresh salads with grilled chicken, fruit bowls with low-fat yogurt, or substituting a side salad or plain baked potato for French fries.
- Check out www.MyPlate.gov for individualized recommendations based on age, gender, and activity level.
- Consider new apps that will help you understand nutrition information. Apps such as Calorie King and MyFitnessPal are a few examples that are popular.
Don’t think that you have use all of these tips to stay health, but remember even small changes add up over time. For example, just drinking water instead of a regular cola twice a week translates into avoiding about 130 pounds of sugar a year!
Writer: Daniel Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition & Wellness, Ohio State University Extension.
Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.
Adapted from OSU Extension Factsheet HYG-5555-06.