Tuesday, September 05, 2006

food nutrition : Healthy Restaurant Eating

America has been called a ‘fast food nation,' and for good reason. Everyday, one out of four Americans eats fast food. Most do it for the convenience – lack of time leads many people to the drive thru, and money plays a part as well. If you are eating out, fast food restaurants are often the cheapest option. Unfortunately, fast food restaurants are not the most nutritious option. Generally, fast food meals are higher in calories, sodium and fat, and often lacking in important vitamins and minerals. Until recently, french fries were the only vegetable option at many fast food restaurants. By most standards, it is a stretch to call fast food french fries a vegetable. Restaurant dining poses similar challenges. Restaurant meals also tend to include too much fat, salt, or sugar, and portions are almost always larger than normal.

While fast food restaurants may not offer the healthiest options, most people find themselves eating fast food from time to time. How can you make the most of your fast food meal? For that matter, how can you make the most of any restaurant meal? The good news is that many restaurants, fast food and sit-down, are adding healthier menu options. It is now possible to eat a fairly nutritious meal on the go. Keep in mind portion control (no super sizing), high fat and calorie sauces and dressings (eliminate them or take them on the side and use sparingly), and sodas (drink water or low fat milk). Making good choices when you are eating out will help you maintain a healthy diet. Knowing what types of menu items are healthier than others can help limit temptation and will also help you encourage your children and grandchildren to make healthy choices as well.

What are some healthy fast food choices?
Fast food restaurants have added many new healthy options. Most fast food restaurants and restaurant chains post nutritional information about their food offerings on their web sites. Visit some of the sites to determine your choices are. If you decide what you can and should order before you arrive, it will make it easier to avoid the less nutritious, higher calorie options. Also, pay attention to changes in the menu and new offerings because many restaurants are finally starting to pay attention to the demand for healthy options. Many restaurants try new items out before they add them to the menu permanently.

When choosing, be aware of highly caloric additions such as salad dressings, cheese, sour cream, etc. Sometimes, making your choice healthier is as simple as removing the condiments. For example, ask for a grilled chicken sandwich without the mayonnaise. Many restaurants are making progress and offering alternatives like salads with low calorie, fat free dressings, or grilled chicken sandwiches on whole wheat rolls, but if they don't, see what you can do to make your choice more nutritious and less fattening.
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