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Dining out as part of a healthy lifestyle is often difficult for most people.  But, it doesn’t have to be impossible.  Try some of the tactics below the next time you are at a restaurant.  Your body, and your taste buds, will thank you!

Cancel Your Membership to the Clean Plate Club. Most restaurants, with very few exceptions, serve at least double or triple the recommended portions for every food item.  Divide your plate in half before eating, and take the rest home for a second meal.

The Lighter Side of Lunch Portions. Many restaurants offer smaller lunch-sized portions or “small plates” in addition to the full-sized meals.  But, they may not offer this up as an option unless you request it.  Be sure to ask if a smaller portion is available.  Just keep in mind that it still may be more food than recommended for one meal.

Modify Your Meals. Invisible fats, such as butter and oil, are often added to dishes without the diner even knowing it.  Even vegetables are not immune.  Don’t be afraid to be a little picky when it comes to how your food is prepared.  Butter and oil can be left off of vegetables and meats without sacrificing flavor.


Don’t Fall Into the Salad Trap. This menu item can be somewhat of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Salads are often among the most fat-laden items on most restaurant menus. You can’t make a meal healthy simply by putting lettuce under it. The toppings make all the difference. And they can add up quickly, especially if creamy or other high fat dressings are used. At the very least, dressing should be served on the side and toppings chosen in moderation.

Don’t Blow it with Beverages. It is all too easy to double the calories in a meal by drinking soda instead of water, especially with unlimited refills. Keep in mind that water is a beverage, and soda is a treat that you drink.

Avoid the Appetizers (or eat your own). Free baskets of food aren’t free of calories. Pass on high fat items, or enjoy a little if you like. Having a small snack of fruit or nuts before leaving home is also a great way to control poor choices caused by hunger.

Be Careful with Condiments. These “little” additions can pack a big punch. If used inappropriately, they have the ability to turn a healthy meal into an unhealthy one. But, chosen wisely and used sparingly, they can be wonderful flavor enhancers. Try low-fat options, like mustard or salsa.

Healthy eating in any situation is simpler with the right tools. Knowing what to do and how to do it is important, but actually doing it is the key. Even small changes can add up over time, so take action now.

Did you know the average family eats out 5 times per week? That’s a lot of eating out! In order to eat out and maintain a healthy diet, the right frame of mind is important to have.  Teach your kids the healthy habits and perspective below to help them develop good eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Know the Food Groups.  Learning the foods that your children should be eating each day along with their appropriate portion sizes and balance will help you teach them to make healthier choices at any meal, anywhere, anytime.

Moderation is the Key.  It is okay for kids to have their favorite tasty treats every now and then.  Order small portions of the most indulgent foods and larger portions of healthier ones to provide balance to their meals.  Shoot for mostly healthy foods and 1-2 treats per day on average.

Break Bad Habits.  Ask your children if they are really hungry for their usual after-dinner chocolate or mid-afternoon soda, or if they’re just used to having those foods at that time every day.  If not, then encourage them to pass on the treat, or suggest replacing it with healthier fare.

Plan Ahead.  Many restaurants have menus available on-line, often with nutrition information.  Identify the better options at your favorite restaurants so that your children will have some flexibility and healthy limits.

Cue into Appetite.  Help your children start listening to their hunger and fullness cues and identify them as the signal to start or stop eating. This intuitive eating approach can help everyone avoid overeating and can also move your child toward self-regulated eating.

Use Positive Thinking.  Focusing on the healthy foods that your family enjoys is much more productive than dwelling on the ones that you think you can’t have.  A “glass half full” mentality will make a healthy lifestyle easier to maintain long-term.  Also try to avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” as this can distort your child’s view of them.

Share.  Treats, such as decadent desserts, can be shared with the whole table or with another individual so that everyone can indulge without overindulging. Large entrees can be split between two children or one child and an adult.

Keep a Diary.  Food journaling is a great way to put your child’s eating habits into perspective, for you and them.  It can also offer some accountability.  Write down their food intake, physical activity, and thoughts and moods throughout the day for insight into the impact eating has on wellbeing.

Enjoying food in a healthy way is all about finding a balance that works for your family. While ‘balance’ may sound mundane or boring, it is the secret to success. It involves balancing immediate pleasure with long-term health. Balancing healthy foods with the occasional treat. Balancing calories eaten with calories burned. Balancing food groups at each meal. Balancing restaurant dining with home cooking. How do you strike the healthy balance when eating out with your family?