During the month of February, the Avera Heart Hospital dietitians, Nikki VerSteeg, Jocelyn Johnson and Mary Beth Russell, teamed up with the local Avera dietitian at several locations to host a fun-filled night celebrating heart health. The night included wine tastings, heart healthy food and a unique presentation about the importance of breakfast, grocery shopping, meal planning and healthy restaurant eating.
We can carry this “Mission: Nutrition” theme into the month of March as well, since National Nutrition Month has been promoted each March for the past 40 years. This year’s theme is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day.”
It’s not easy to eat right every day. It takes some awareness and planning. My part of the “Mission: Nutrition” presentation had to do with how to make healthy choices when eating out. I think we would all agree the meals we consume when we eat out are generally lacking in fruit, vegetables and whole grains, along with larger portions. So what can we do to order a healthy meal off a menu that provides a good source of nutrition and the “right size” portion? The following are seven tips that will help you when ordering off a restaurant menu:
Use a “to go” box. If portion sizes are bigger than you need for one meal, then plan on it providing two meals. Ask the server to bring you a box when they bring out your food and reduce the amount you eat by immediately placing some of the food in the box and setting it aside.
- Eat a healthy snack. Before you leave home or on the way to the restaurant, eat a small healthy snack, such as a handful of nuts, a piece of fresh fruit or a can of low-sodium tomato juice. It will curb your appetite and make you less likely to be tempted to order an appetizer.
- Employ the “hold” tactic. Don’t be afraid to ask the server to hold some extras that you can do without (such as mayo, bacon, sour cream, cheese and butter) to save calories.
- Ask for “special requests.” When ordering, ask the server if substitutions can be made. Can you have a side of vegetables instead of french fries? Do they have a low-calorie salad dressing? Can you have dressing on the side? Many restaurants are happy to oblige.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth. Instead of indulging in a calorie and fat-laden dessert at the end of your meal, keep some small treats, such as a piece of dark chocolate, a lifesaver or a stick of sugar-free gum in your purse or pocket to enjoy at the end of the meal.
- Go for H2O. Make water your beverage of choice, rather than sugary sodas or drinks.
- Plan ahead. Check out the nutrition information on your favorite menu items from nutrition information at the restaurant, online or from a smartphone app. By being aware of the calorie and fat content of the foods that are available, you can make an informed choice when you are there.
By thinking ahead, checking out the options and using some of these tools, you CAN create your own strategy for better food choices. Happy Nutrition Month!