Thursday, May 24, 2012

Health Tips 101: Eating Healthy On The Road

I realized recently that I have been totally slacking off on my health tips page.  I have so many great recipes I want to share that I just haven't gotten around to doing anything else.  And for that, I apologize.  But I am getting ready to make a road trip and am preparing myself for a weekend of eating out.  And trying not to gain 5 pounds in the process.  I figured with Memorial Day coming up and lots of people traveling, now would be a good time to share some tips for eating healthy while eating out.

Hitting the road can make eating healthy a challenge.  And let's face it, eating away from home is a part of life for most Americans today.  But with a little planning and discipline, it doesn't have to be a diet disaster.  If you need some tips for eating well during your holiday travels (or just a busy Wednesday night!), you've come to the right place!  Here are my favorite tips for healthy eating on the go:
  • First of all, if you are traveling and can avoid eating at a restaurant or grabbing something from a convenience store, go for it!  Bringing your own healthy snacks or even meals can be a great way to control calories.  Think fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers, or low fat granola bars for snacks.  If you are bringing a light meal, like a low fat turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread for example, just remember to bring a lunch box with plenty of ice to keep it cool.  You definitely don't want food poisoning on the open road!
  • Do your homework.  If you are eating out while traveling, plan where you are going to eat, and look up nutrition facts online.  Then you can choose a meal that fits your needs.  And walking into a restaurant with a plan of what to order makes it easier to choose healthy items when the smell of chili cheese fries, or whatever does it for you, hits you as you walk in.
  • Try to avoid all-you-can eat buffets.  You might get a good value, but you are almost guaranteed to totally pig out.  As a society, we suck at self control when it comes to food.  Has anyone ever walked out of a buffet wishing they had eaten more?  Don't set yourself up for food failure!
  • Think small.  A positive trend in food service recently is offering the option of smaller portion sizes.  Take advantage of choices such as lunch-size portions, dollar menu items, or miniature size menu items.  You will save yourself money, calories, and guilt.
  • Avoid temptation to overeat before your meal even starts by asking your server not to bring bread or chips to your table while you are looking over the menu.  If you want to enjoy just a bit, take a small amount and ask your server to take the rest.
  • If ordering a salad, beware of fatty salad dressings.  Choose low fat dressing and/or ask for your dressing on the side so you can control how much goes on your nice healthy salad greens.
  • Read between the lines.  Restaurants don't exactly like to broadcast their nutrition deficiencies.  Menu descriptors don't say things like, "deep fat fried in our own special blend of artery-clogging oil," "dripping with grease," or "loaded with enough saturated fat to give you heart disease just by looking at it."  So remember that foods with these words are probably high in fat and calories: fried, buttered, creamed, creamy, crispy, breaded, scalloped, or au gratin.
  • What to choose instead?  Look for words that indicate a menu item is lower in fat and calories such as steamed, roasted, poached, grilled, broiled, braised, or baked.
  • Choose vegetables, baked potato (without tons of butter and sour cream!), fruit, or fat free yogurt as your side dish instead of chips or french fries.
  • Standard restaurant portion sizes are easily big enough for two people.  Either share your meal, or put half of the meal in a box before you start eating.  Don't count on your willpower to stop halfway through.  You might stop for a while, but it is really tempting to continue munching on your food while your friends are still eating.  You take one more bite, then one more bite, then another.  And before you know it, you've eaten the whole thing.  It happens to the best of us! 
By following these simple tips, you can enjoy going out to eat without feeling like you need to run a marathon afterwards.  Have a great holiday weekend, enjoy time with friends and family, and stay active!

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