Employee & Community Health

Eating out, eating smart

11/12/2018 by Michaeleen Burroughs, RDN, LD

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Did you know?

  • One third or more of the calories Americans consume come from foods eaten in or bought from restaurants. 
  • The Applebee's Grilled Chicken Oriental Salad tallies 1,310 calories, while a Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks tops out at 570 calories and a Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin at Perkins will set you back 700. The average adult should consume about 2,000 calories a day, including snacks and beverages. 
  • The obesity epidemic is showing no signs of abating in people over age five. 

Eating out holds pitfalls that can pack on the pounds — but not if you're smart about it. Here are some tips that let you enjoy eating out (or ordering in) with friends and family:

  • Do a little research before you leave home. Most family-friendly restaurants now have extensive menu information on their websites, including calories, nutrition and even calculators that let you plan your calorie counts ahead. There also are easy-to-use independent online sites and apps, such as CalorieKing and fatsecret
  • Watch the portions. Some menus have "senior" or "lighter side" offerings that tend to be smaller. Consider splitting an entrée. Or ask for a to-go box as soon as your meal arrives; split everything in half and set aside to take home. 
  • Watch your kids' portions. Just because kids can eat adult food, doesn't mean they should eat adult portions. Share meals, take some home or ask for kid-sized portions. 
  • Control your order. Ask for dressing and mayo on the side, dry toast (then you control the amount of spread put on it), order egg-white omelets, choose grilled over fried or breaded. 
  • Beware of before-meal extras like baskets of chips or popcorn, breadsticks and endless refills of beverages. Noshing on these meal starters can add 300-500 calories on top of those for your entrée. 
  • Build your own meal around a carryout entrée. Try ordering a smaller pizza (remember those portions) and rustle up your own sides at home such as baby carrots and fruit cups or grapes and assorted olives. 
  • Share desserts. Everyone gets a taste without putting a bite in their calories for the day. 

Save eating our or picking up carryout for special occasions or as a treat. When you cook at home, it's easier to make healthy choices — and it's easier on your budget. 

Michaeleen Burroughs, RDN, LD, has worked at Employee and Community Health (ECH) in Family Medicine for 20 years. She currently helps patients at Mayo Family Clinics Northwest, Southeast and Kasson, and Baldwin Family Medicine and Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM). Her areas of interest are diabetes and child and adult weight management.