Monday, July 7, 2014

Eating Out When a Healthy Menu is Lacking

Eating out is an activity busy Americans frequently in but don’t often understand the consequences of their food choices.  Some people eat out more than three times a week and this can have an impact on their waistline if they do not adjust their food selections. When Healthy Heart options are lacking an alternative strategy is needed. You can still enjoy your dining experience while eating healthy with a few simple tips.

Part of the problem relates to the consumers choice of foods and the other is more akin to menu options.  Consumers regularly select foods that will satisfy their immediate cravings without regard to the longer consequences of poor eating.  At times restaurants don't offer healthy options or nutrition information. A little reflection can go a long way.

Some restaurants offer a Healthy Heart option which can be an invaluable food selection tool. The use of Healthy Heart menu options has lots of room for growth in the restaurant industry (Jones, et. al., 2004). When offered they usually contained vegetarian meals or light side dishes but often leave out fruit, low-fat beverages, low-fat dressing, and healthy deserts. 

Where a healthy Heart option is not available, or lacking in substance, you should adjust your eating processes to reap the most rewards. Consider the following:

1)  Skip the immediate need to eat bread or request whole grain as a healthier alternative.
2)  Drink a glass of water before putting anything in your mouth to satisfy immediate cravings.
3)  Scan the menu for the Healthy Heart section, low calorie, or high vegetable foods.
4)  Pick restaurants that regularly provide high quality foods such as Thai, Mediterranean, Japanese, Greek, Indian and Organic/Local foods.
5)  Pick soups, salads and other items with a vegetable base.
6) Avoid fried, pasta heavy and creamy foods. Select baked, broiled, or steamed items.
7) If necessary share a meal with someone and order a side dish to reduce the total calorie count.
8) Don’t be afraid to ask for alternatives because it is the restaurants business to serve your needs.
9) Skip the desert. 

Jones, J. et. al. (2004). The prevalence of heart-healthy menu items in West Virginia restaurants. American Journal of Health Behavior, 28 (4).

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