By: Lynette “Billie” Linstad is a Community Liaison with Carefree Living and Spectrum Community Health. She has been working with seniors and their families in the assisted living and memory care areas for over 5 years. She enjoys making a difference in the lives of the elderly in our community. Julie Florell is a Care Transition Coordinator with St. Croix Hospice and has been a member of the hospice team since 2011. Julie’s healthcare career spans more than twenty years and includes direct care and advocacy for seniors and their families. Her expertise comprises care in a variety of settings including home health care, assisted living, and consulting.
Eating out is a way of life for many people, yet doing so poses many challenges to a healthy lifestyle. Eating out and eating healthfully can be accomplished simultaneously, but doing so requires planning, communication, and careful selection of food.
Here are four keys to healthy eating out: 1) plan ahead, 2) ask for what you want, 3) take charge of what’s around you, 4) choose foods carefully.
Let’s look at how to use them when eating out.
- Plan ahead Pick the restaurant carefully. Go to one with low-fat choices. Call ahead or check on the Internet to find out what is on the menu. Eat fewer calories and less fat during meals a day or two before you plan to eat out. Eat a small, healthy snack before you go to the restaurant so that you are not too hungry when you get there. Plan what to order without looking at the menu. Ask the server directly if he or she can recommend the healthiest entrée on the menu, instead of looking at the menu which can tempt you to order more than you need.
- Ask for the foods you want Ask for substitutions, for example, ask for baked potato instead of fries. Ask whether foods can be prepared in a different way; for example, ask that butter, margarine and sauces be left off the vegetables. Do not be afraid to ask for foods that are not on the menu. Ask for amounts you want. Ask the server about the size of each serving, for example, you could ask “How many ounces is the hamburger, please?”. Ask for salad dressings, gravy, sauces or spreads on the side. Ask for less cheese or no cheese. Split a main dish or dessert with someone or order a smaller size. Before or after a meal, have the amount you do not want to eat put in a container to take home.
- Take charge of what’s around you When appropriate, be the first to order then you will not be tempted by what others order. When a server brings rolls, chips, or other complimentary foods, say “No, thank you,” and hand back the food right away. Ask that your plate be removed as soon as you are finished so that you will not be tempted to eat more than you want while others finish their meals.
- Choose your foods aarefully Be cautious of sauces on meats and vegetables and ask that these foods be served without the sauce or on the side. Think about how much food you really need, like do you need an appetizer? Trim visible fat off meat and remove skin from chicken.
In many ways, our lives revolve around eating and meals. We have friends over for dinner; we go to community events, pickup fast food, munch during sports events and movies and we spend days cooking for family reunions and holidays. Yet even in these situations, we must use the four keys to eating healthy to meet our goals.
It is often a challenge to stay focused on a goal in places where you feel that you have no control. But you gain control over your situation by using the four keys for making healthy food choices when you eat away from home. Be confident and ask for what you want.