It's easy to be tempted when you eat out — especially if everyone around you is chowing down on unhealthy options. But eating too much fast food or always choosing high-fat, high-calorie menu items can drag a person's body down. The most obvious problem is weight gain. But because the food we eat affects how our bodies function, eating the right (or wrong) foods can influence any number of things:
It's easier than you think to make good choices at a fast-food restaurant, the mall, or even the school cafeteria. Most cafeterias and fast-food places offer healthy choices that are also tasty, like grilled chicken or salads. Be mindful of portion sizes and high fat add-ons, like dressings, sauces or cheese.
Here are some pointers to remember that can help you make wise choices when eating out:
Most restaurant portions are way larger than the average serving of food at home. Ask for half portions, share an entrée with a friend, or take half of your dish home.
Here are some other restaurant survival tips:
With a little planning, it's easy to eat healthy foods at the mall. Here are some choices:
Choose the smaller sizes, especially when it comes to drinks and snacks. If you have a craving for something unhealthy, try sharing the food you crave with a friend. Here's another tip for eating while shopping: Don't put off eating until you're so hungry you could inhale everything in sight. Set a time to eat, then stop what you're doing to take a break, sit down, and savor the food you are eating.
The suggestions for eating in a restaurant and at the mall apply to cafeteria food as well. Add vegetables and fruit whenever possible, and opt for leaner, lighter items. Choose sandwiches on whole-grain bread or a plain hamburger over fried foods or pizza. Go easy on the high-fat, low-nutrition items, such as mayonnaise and heavy salad dressings.
You might want to consider packing your own lunch occasionally. Here are some lunch items that pack a healthy punch:
It can be easy to eat well, even on the run. And the good news is you don't have to eat perfectly all the time. It's OK to splurge every once in a while, as long as your food choices are generally good.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2012
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