Eating out? You don't have to opt for high-fat meals

April 10, 2001

Eating out? You don't have to opt for high-fat meals

While Americans are doing a better job of eating a healthful diet at home, they still eat too much fat and not enough milk, vegetables and fruits when eating out.


A United States Department of Agriculture report found Americans have increased the number of meals eaten out by more than two-thirds, from 16 percent of all meals and snacks in 1977-78, to 27 percent in 1995.

Food eaten outside the home tends to be higher in fat and lower in calcium, fiber and iron. Our busy lifestyles and more women in the workplace probably mean eating out will continue to be a frequent occurrence for many people. Eating away from home doesn't have to be a high-fat, low-nutrient experience.

The USDA report found that improved diets could save Americans $5.1 billion to $10.6 billion each year in medical care costs, missed work and premature deaths associated with osteoporosis-related hip fractures alone.


Making slightly different choices and paying attention to the Food Guide Pyramid when eating out can have a significant effect on the nutritional content of foods eaten away from home. Some suggestions include:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Choose a restaurant with a varied menu so you have more choices.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Order fish and meats either baked, broiled or poached.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Order hamburgers and deli sandwiches with salsa, mustard or sliced tomatoes instead of dressing.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Learn to stop eating as soon as you are full. Don't finish a large serving just because you paid for it. Ask for a "doggy bag" and take the remaining portion home and use it for another meal.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Ask for whole grain, rather than white bread, for sandwiches.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Soups with a clear broth, such as Manhattan clam chowder and vegetable, are lower in fat than cream-based soups.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Terms like "au gratin," "Alfredo" and "creamy" usually refer to high-fat sauces. Ask for a lower-fat choice or order the sauce "on the side" so you can use very little.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Bring several pieces of fruit or some yogurt to work to eat with a deli or take-out sandwich.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Order milk, water or fruit juice rather than soda.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Choose a plain bagel over muffins, doughnuts or pastries.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Realize that salad bars also have fat. Limit the amount of bacon bits, cheese, egg, croutons and dressing you put on a salad. In case no low-fat dressings are offered, bring an individual-sized packet of low-fat dressing with you to the restaurant.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Have fruit, rather than cake or cookies, for dessert.

Examine your food choices and use these suggestions to make changes that could improve your health while lowering the risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and neural tube birth defects.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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