Eating out, turning fat meals into lean meals

Dining out can be challenging for people trying to maintain a heart-healthy diet. According to a report by the National Restaurant Association , the average American eats out more than 4 times a week. Based on three meals a day, that’s nearly 20 percent of total meals eaten during a week.

Recognizing fat on the menu matters

There are times when eating out is preferable or simply just unavoidable — lunch tops the list for the meal eaten out most often. But since food eaten out can be one-fifth of an average week’s meals, it’s important to learn how to limit the amount of fat in foods ordered.

Meals eaten out aren’t served with an ingredient list or food labels, so it can be difficult to know which foods will help to maintain a heart-healthy diet. With a few pointers, you can recognize which menu items are most likely to be high in fat and which foods are better bets. And with a few modifications, a fat meal can become leaner.

Tips for reducing fat

Make better choices when dining out with these tips from American Dietetic Association:

  • Choose foods from the menu that have been baked, braised, grilled, broiled or poached. There is usually less fat required in cooking.
  • Avoid foods that are described as batter fried, pan fried, creamed, crispy or breaded.
  • Order sandwiches without mayonnaise or bacon. Ask that mayonnaise and sauces to be placed on the side and use sparingly.
  • To avoid eating too much before the meal arrives, ask to have the bread and chips delivered with your meal.
  • Replace French fries and chips with fruit or a baked potato. Skip the sour cream and butter altogether and top baked potatoes with salsa and a sprinkle of cheese instead.
  • If portions are large, split the meal with your dining partner or take the other half home.

For a complete list of tips, visit the American Dietetic Association’s Web site.

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