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Drive-Through Dieting: How Fast Food Can Make You Slim
by: Shawn Ferrando

Q: Unfortunately I have to eat many meals out in restaurants and I tend to sabotage my good eating habits because of it. Can you suggest any tips to make healthier choices while eating out?

-T. Beacker, Mission Viejo, CA

A: You can enjoy dining out without sabotaging your diet. Dining out poses many challenges to a healthy lifestyle however it isn’t impossible to maintain a healthy weight and eat out but it will require some thought and planning. It is important to choose wisely.

Unfortunately many fast-food restaurants ask the common question, “would you like that supersized?” The large portions served when eating out at restaurants, foods that may be prepared with added fat or sugar and the meal may not offer all food groups to balance the meal, any of these factors can ruin a healthy diet or weight loss regimen.

The good news is that these days restaurants have become savvier to offering healthier choices. Eating out healthfully has become much easier than in the past. When eating out, you can almost always find a nutritious salad or meal that will satisfy your hunger without excess calories (even in fast- food restaurants). You must choose restaurants wisely and ask for the food to be prepared the way you like it. Don’t wait until you are starving to find a place to eat, this will lead to an impulse decision and most likely an unhealthy one. Plan ahead and give yourself some time to choose. Look for a place that offers menus with nutrition information. If you are stuck with fast food, walk away from the pizza place or hot dog stand and look for places that offer fruit, yogurt, soup and sandwiches. Most fast food places now offer healthy options like salads (watch out for the dressings) and yogurt.

Experts offer the following tips to help you make the most nutritious and healthy choices when you're eating out:

  • Have sauces served on the side.
  • Choose light salad dressings or vinaigrettes, served on the side.
  • Go for foods that are baked, broiled, roasted, grilled -- any preparation other than fried is the best choice.
  • Select broth-based soups.
  • Have tomato or vegetable toppings on pasta.
  • Go easy on the cheese.
  • Limit bread, chips, or whatever is in the basket while you await your meal.
  • Order fresh fruit or fruit sorbet for dessert.
  • Choose grilled chicken or lean meat sandwiches.
  • Hold the French fries; substitute a side salad (easy on the dressing).
  • Skip the casseroles unless you know what they contain.
  • Choose simply prepared foods without lots of extra ingredients and calories.
  • Enjoy as many simply prepared vegetables as you like.
  • Keep portions small.
  • Avoid mindless hand-to-mouth eating.
  • Enjoy a salad and an appetizer in place of an entree, or take home half your meal for tomorrow's lunch.

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