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A Simple Guide for Getting a Healthy Meal When Eating Out

When you go out to eat, keep this fact in mind: The average meal at large chain restaurants has about 1,128 calories. That's more than half the calories most people should eat in an entire day in just one meal. Even the small neighborhood restaurants have an average of 1,327 calories, and that doesn’t include drinks and appetizers.

The food at some restaurants might contain even more calories than that in just one dish. Even if you don’t order the biggest and greasiest dish on the menu, you're still probably consuming too many calories. So how can you avoid these calorie traps and eat healthy, even when eating outside?

Prepare yourself ahead of time.

Before you go out, take 5 minutes to go over the online nutrition facts posted on the restaurants website. Most fast food restaurants and chain restaurants have this feature, and with proper planning you can save yourself 1,000 calories or more.

Choose a low calorie appetizer.

Stick with light appetizers like tuna, shrimp (not fried), and vegetables. This can have a dramatic effect on how 'heavy' your meal is, as appetizers can sometimes be extremely fattening and high on calories.

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Always choose veggies as your side dish.

When given a choice, always ask for steamed vegetables instead of fries or onion rings. Be sure to ask how the vegetables are prepared, if they’re fried or cooked with butter, ask if you can get them steamed instead.

Ask for a salad with the dressing on the side.

A salad it often the most healthy choice for eating out but there can sometimes be a hidden danger in the dressing. Be sure to order it without croutons or cheese, and ask for a vinaigrette based dressing on the side. This way you can control just how much you put on your salad.

Take your pasta with red sauces.

Tomato based sauces are usually healthier options than the white, cream based sauces. In addition, ask if they have whole grain or whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta. It might cost a bit more but it's a huge difference for your body and blood pressure.

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Look at the healthy or light menu first.

Many restaurants today offer options under a special part of the menu called “reduced calories,” or “under 600 calories.” It’s the first place you should look for your order and even then, always remember the other tips.

Drink water.

Drinks can put a damper on an otherwise healthy meal. Fruity drinks and sodas are very often just calories with a lot of added sugar. Stick with water, tea, and coffee with just a bit of cream and sugar.

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Choose healthy and lean proteins.

Chicken, turkey and fish are your best bet in almost any restaurant. Try going for a dish that’s grilled or broiled and not fried.

Sharing is caring... about your health.

When you go out with other people you can use this simple strategy to reduce your calorie intake. Splitting a dessert between four people can help you avoid a lot of damage and make meals more fun for everyone.

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image by: Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Don’t be afraid to ask.

This might be the simplest tip of them all and yet so many people fail to use it. Don't hesitate to ask a server, or a manager, about the nutritious background of the food. It is your right as a customer to ask about the product you are paying for. Even if they don’t know the exact numbers they can still recommend a good dish for you. Don’t be afraid to ask, it's your health we're talking about here.

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