Making healthier choices eating out

eatout

By: Debbie Dang, Nutrition Peer Counselor, UC Davis Fitness and Wellness Center

As students trying to survive the brutality of the quarter system at UC Davis, we sometimes find ourselves having little time to cook during the week. This forces us to go out and buy foods that are fast and easily accessible. But how can we eat healthy AND optimize our time simultaneously, living this lifestyle? Here are 10 tips to achieve both!

  1. Check what is in the food you’re considering ordering

The first step to eating healthier is to scan the ingredients. Doing this will help you make a decision that supports your nutrition goals.  Keep choosemyplate in mind and look for entrees with a balance of grains, protein and fruits and veggies. If you can’t find one, order a side of veggies.

  1. Go with a plan

People tend to arrive at a restaurant or food joint without a plan. This increases the chance of buying impulsively. Looking at the menu ahead of time can help you decide on a healthier meal and decrease that risk of buying an extra order of fries! So, take a quick study break and peruse the online menu.

  1. Practice portion control

Restaurants will often serve two to three times more than what is considered a serving on their food label. Instead of eating that whole platter, ask the restaurant to box up half of the meal into a to-go box. Or if you’re eating with a friend, share a meal.

  1. Watch your fat intake

Many processed and restaurant foods contain saturated fat in order to increase storage life and enhance the taste and mouthfeel. Eating too many of these fats can increase your chances of coronary heart disease. Avoid eating more than 10% of your calories from saturated fats.  That would be about 22 gms per day maximum.  Sometimes this information is difficult to find at restaurants.  Beware of large quantities of fatty meats, cheese and butter.

  1. Minimize your sodium intake

Salt is used to reduce microbial growth and enhance the taste of foods, but eating too much can be detrimental to your health! A high salt intake can result in hypertension or high blood pressure. Limit your salt intake to less than 2,300 mg/day. When eating out, ask the restaurant to minimize the salt and use herbs and spices to add flavor instead!

  1. Skip the sweetened beverage

Sweetened beverages like boba milk tea or soda have a high sugar content, which can increase your risk for Type 2 Diabetes over time. Skip these sugar-laden drinks and drink water instead! If water is too bland for you, an alternative is to drink water that is infused with vegetables or fruit.  Most restaurants will provide a lemon wedge. 

  1. Substitute some items on your plate

Making simple changes by substituting foods with healthier choices can make a big difference in the long run. For example, when ordering a taco bowl at Chipotle, you can choose brown rice instead of white rice. Or instead of buying a side of fries, ask for a side of vegetables.

  1. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets

It’s easy to fall into the temptation of all-you-can eat buffets. Eating at a buffet oftentimes invokes students to “eat their money’s worth.” But the foods at buffets are usually high in fat and salt. Overeating these foods may increase your risk for high cholesterol, hypertension, and heart disease! Take the opportunity to load up on veggies at the salad bar.

  1. Ask for sauces and dip on the side

Restaurants will often mix your salads or fries with the sauce for your convenience. Some of these sauces can make your healthy meal unhealthy! Asking for sauces on the side will help you monitor how much you use. 

  1. Practice mindful eating

It takes time for your body to send cues to your brain to tell you you’re full. Oftentimes distractions like your phone or favorite TV series may cause you to be less attentive to your body cues. This can lead to overeating. However, being mindful of your body cues will help you avoid this. To practice mindful eating, eat slowly and without distractions. Listening to how much your body actually wants will help you practice eating only until you’re full.

Try these tips the next time you go out to eat! Choosing healthier choices will be beneficial in the long run and help you take control of your life.

 

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