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Tips for Eating Healthy when Dining out

A true health guru will tell you to never eat at a restaurant since it is impossible to control what goes into your food. But in today’s dine-out culture that advice is a bit unrealistic. Sharing the occasional meal with friends, family or business associates is a great way to celebrate an event, interact with others and give yourself a break from the daily grind of preparing a meal and cleaning up afterward.

In many cases, you don’t have to give up healthy eating when dining out. Even in some of the most greasy of greasy spoons, you can usually find something to eat that isn’t life threatening.

When dining out keep these guidelines in mind:

Think nutrition.
After all, this is why we eat, to nourish our bodies. Look for the foods that offer you the most vitamins, minerals, fibers and healthy proteins. Don’t worry that they may be high in calories if they are also high in nutrition. Choose foods that are closest to their natural form and less processed.

In most cases, the ones with the highest nutrition naturally have lower calories, but not always.

For example: A fresh avocado contains a fair amount of fat and calories, but it is good, healthy fat that your body needs. And it’s loaded with vitamins.

Consider Preparation.
Vegetables that are served raw, slightly steamed or slow-cooked are the best for you. Foods overcooked, fried or charred beyond recognition are best avoided. Ask if your food can be prepared with less salt. Some restaurants even offer a lower-sodium version of their dishes.

As long as they have the ingredients and it is simple, many restaurants will allow you to create your own dish to your specifications. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Stick to basics.
When choosing dressings or other condiments or toppings, stick with the things you know. Extra virgin olive oil and vinegar is a wise topping for your salad. Butter is better than margarine.

If you’re going to eat bacon bits, use the real thing, not highly processed textured protein, bacon-flavored bits. Real is always better.

Your safest bet is unsweetened ice tea or water. If the water is unfiltered tap water, add a lemon slice to kill unwanted bugs and bad taste, while adding a little extra flavor and vitamin C. Diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners thought to cause health problems, sugary drinks are bad for your teeth, skin and waistline.

Fresh-brewed tea—iced or hot—can provide beneficial polyphenols. If you must use a sweetener, ask for honey.

Wine, in moderation, of course, is another healthy option as it contains resveratrol, believed to have anti-aging properties. Coffee is a less healthy option, but still better than soft drinks and can be sweetened with honey too.

Eating out and eating healthy can go hand in hand, it just takes a little extra effort. Stay on your healthy path by thinking before you order and you will enjoy the meal, as well as the experience.