Healthy Holiday Eating Away From Home

During the holiday season more people will be eating away from home. Whether you order carry-out, buy ready-to-serve food at the grocery store, or dine in a restaurant, making good food choices is still important. Healthy and delicious food is available, if you look for it.

Fast Food Joints

Even fast food restaurants offer some good food choices. Start by carefully looking at the whole menu. Are there other choices than a cheeseburger and French fries?

  • Remember there is no such thing as a low-fat cheeseburger. Hamburger is always high in fat and so is cheese. If you must order a burger, order a small one and hold the cheese and mayonnaise.

  • Instead of ordering French fries, order a side salad, baked potato or corn- on-the-cob.

  • Instead of a breaded chicken breast sandwich, order the grilled chicken sandwich.

  • Order a variety of foods. For example: Instead of a triple cheeseburger and large order of fries, order a regular hamburger, a side salad, a cup of soup and skim milk.

  • Avoid cream of . . . foods. Cream of broccoli soup has very little broccoli and lots of fat and cream. Order soups with a broth base instead.

  • Ask for fat-free salad dressings and always ask for the dressing "on the side."

Eating in a Restaurant

Remember you are the customer and you are in charge. Ask your waiter or waitress how the food is prepared before you order. Is it fried, is it baked, can you have it without butter or without salt? Ask about words in a foreign language, especially in an ethnic restaurant. Know what you are getting . . .

  • If you must wait at the bar for your table, order something light. Even nonalcoholic beverages can be loaded with sugar and fat. For example: Irish coffee is made with cream. Order water with a slice of lemon or a fruit "juice spritzer."

  • If you are on a special diet, let the waitress know right away. Sometimes she can be helpful.

  • Do not overeat. Try ordering an appetizer and a small salad as your meal.

  • Share a high fat food or a large order with someone. Order one dessert and ask for two, three or four spoons for sharing. You will save money and calories.

  • Avoid overeating by eating half your order and taking the rest home. Make it a habit to ask for a "doggie bag." Refrigerate leftovers within two hours.

  • Avoid fried meats and ground meats like sausage and meatballs. Look for low fat meats that are grilled, broiled and baked.

  • Order whole grain breads or plain rolls. Biscuits and croissants are always high in fat.

  • Drink coffee black or with skim milk and a sugar substitute. Ask for Cafe Mocha or hot chocolate made with skim milk and no whipped cream.

  • Always order water. Drinking water along with a meal is filling.

Enjoy eating away from home for the holidays. It can be relaxing and fun. Get into the habit of making good food choices no matter where you eat. Healthy eating is the first step in reducing your risk of heart disease, obesity and some forms of cancer.

Prepared by Drusilla Banks, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness.

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