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How to Make Family-Friendly Healthy Choices at Restaurants

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If you’re like most busy families these days, you probably eat out a lot.  Research shows that Americans eat out an average of about 5 times per week, so the breakfast, lunch or dinner choices individuals and families make at restaurants can have a significant impact on health.  Going out to eat isn’t just an occasional splurge anymore.  Over the last three decades, Americans have increased their away-from-home share of calories from approximately 18 to 32 percent, making restaurant meals a much bigger part of the health equation than in the past.  With so many meals eaten out, it’s more important than ever for families to make healthy choices at restaurants.

The good news is that the number of restaurants offering healthy choices for adults and kids alike is steadily increasing, making it easier than ever to find dishes that everyone can agree on.  Next time you or your family head out to eat, keep these quick tips in mind for ordering the best choices for a healthy lifestyle:

  • Focus on quality ingredients: Lean proteins like white-meat poultry, seafood, soy, legumes and lean cuts of beef such as round, loin or sirloin as well as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy make great building blocks for a meal.  These types of foods are nutrient-dense and often lower in fat, saturated fat and calories than other choices.
  • Opt for healthier preparations: Skip the foods that are fried and be sure to ask questions about preparations that may include butter or excessive oil for cooking.  Requesting sauces and dressings on the side is always a great strategy to control added fat, calories and sodium.
  • Keep an eye on portion sizes: In an effort to provide value to guests, many restaurants offer larger than recommended portions.  Get familiar with healthy portions.  When portions are larger than recommended, consider splitting a meal or boxing up part of the meal to enjoy later.
  • Think Veggies: Split an entree salad with a friend and ask for dressing on the side. Or order extra vegetables as a side dish. Help boost your fiber and satiety while eating in according to the ChooseMyPlate principles of filling half your plate with veggies.
  • Make the most of health and nutrition resources:  Use the available nutrition information at restaurants or search for the best choices for your family using tools like HealthyDiningFinder, which features Healthy Dining and Kids LiveWell choices hand-picked by registered dietitians.  Many restaurants already have information on calories, saturated fat, sodium and more at the ready to help guests make the best choices for their needs.  In addition, starting December 1, 2015, all restaurants with 20 or more locations will be required to include calories on the menu as well as supply full nutrition information on demand to comply with new menu labeling legislation.

As busy families like yours come to rely more and more on restaurants for meals throughout the week, it’s vital that those restaurant meals are the best choices for a healthy lifestyle.  Next time your family eats out, treat yourselves well with Healthy Dining and Kids LiveWell menu choices like these, which are not only delish family favorites but also an easy fit for a healthy lifestyle:

Now that you know how to make healthy choices dining out, learn how to make healthy choices on road trips!



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About the Author

Healthy Dining provides the digital tools and resources necessary to find the best restaurant choices for dietary goals and healthy lifestyles. Healthy Dining’s signature web and mobile site, HealthyDiningFinder.com, enables millions of nutrition-conscious restaurant diners, as well as those dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other nutrition-related conditions, to easily find dietitian-recommended Healthy Dining and Kids LiveWell choices. The site also provides inspiration for healthy eating through articles, blogs, and recipes. Visit HealthyDiningFinder.com to find the best restaurant choices…so you can be at your best!


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