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10 Tips for Dining Out

There is no doubt about it; Americans are eating in restaurants more often than ever before. In 1970 Americans spent just 26% of their food dollars on restaurant meals. Today we spend 46% of food dollars on eating out. This is likely the result of a fast paced lifestyle and more convenience of restaurants. What have also grown are restaurant portion sizes. The average restaurant portion size is large enough to feed three adults! Furthermore, studies have found a direct association between eating out and higher caloric intakes and higher body weights. This is important to know since obesity rates have doubled in the past 20 years and currently 65% of adults are obese.

This doesn't mean you have to forego eating in restaurants. This may not be realistic for many people's lifestyles. Instead, become more aware of what you are ordering and how much is on your plate. Here are 10 tips for dining out.

1. At lunch, opt for a deli sandwich with vegetable soup or side salad instead of a burger and fries. You can find these items in your local deli or supermarket.

2. Avoid specialty breads on sandwiches such as foccacia, baguettes or rolls, and choose whole grain bread instead.

3. Avoid anything mixed with heavy sauces or mayonnaise. (a tuna or egg salad sandwich in a restaurant may have more mayonnaise than you would add at home).

4. Get your salad dressings, sauces, and gravies on the side.

5. Eat half or even a quarter of the regular entrée or split the meal with a friend. Remember, most restaurant portions can feed 3 adults.

6. Share one dessert.

7. Skip the extra cheese on anything you order.

8. Choose lean meats such as chicken, turkey, or fish. A turkey sandwich in place of a roast beef sandwich can save you 100 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat.

9. Go easy on stuffed entrees- they're often loaded in fat and calories.

10. Avoid "super-sizing" combo meals. They may be an economic value but they can add up to 2000 calories for one meal!

The average American adult is gaining 2-3 pounds a year. That amounts to eating just 20 - 30 extra calories than your body needs each day. It really is the "little things" that put on excess weight. Where can you save a few calories?

© Meri Raffetto RD, 2004

Owner of Real Living Nutrition Services, Meri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian and a recognized professional in the area of nutrition and wellness. She has received a bachelor's degree in both nutrition and psychology and has extensive experience in nutrition counseling and medical nutrition therapy. She offers individual nutrition counseling and has developed one of the only non-diet weight management programs available on the internet. For more information or to sign up for Real Living's free nutrition newsletter, visit


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