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9 Tricks to Staying Healthy When Eating Out

Eating out can be a gamble especially for people who are watching their weight or managing certain health conditions. Many of the foods prepared outside of the home are high in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, but that doesn't mean they are completely off limits. Follow these tips to help you enjoy a meal out without depriving yourself.

1. Eat at Your Usual Times

Be sure to eat your regular meals and snacks. Do not skip meals in an effort to "save" calories before a big meal. By doing this, you may find yourself ravenous, which may lead to making poor choices and consuming larger portions than you otherwise would.

2. Exercise

Be sure to get your regular activity in each day. If you know you're going to splurge or have a higher calorie meal than usual, exercise more intensely or for a longer period of time to help burn off some of those extra calories.

3. Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water can help you stay alert and offset the effects of eating high sodium foods. Additionally, thirst cues can be mistaken for hunger cues, so if you stay hydrated, you'll most likely eat less.

4. Do Your Research

If you know you're going to a particular establishment ahead of time, go to their website and see if you can locate their nutrition facts. Find and decide on appetizing meal that fits within your calorie budget.

5. Ask for Assistance

If you have no way of researching the menu beforehand, ask your server to tell you which foods are the healthiest or lowest in calories. Ask them how the food is prepared and if they will accommodate special requests. Most establishments are happy to comply if you ask politely. You may want to ask them to do any of the following:

- Use Pam spray instead of butter
- Not to add salt while cooking
- Trim visible fat from poultry or meat
- Use less oil when preparing your dish
- Remove butter, cream sauce or gravy from a dish
- Serve salad dressing or sauce on the side

6. Enjoy Your Food - Stop Eating When You Feel Satisfied

Take your time eating, chew slowly, and enjoy your food and the company of the people you are eating with - engage them in conversation to help you eat more slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to communicate to the brain that you are full. If you eat too quickly, you'll be over-stuffed by the time you receive that signal.

7. Split a Meal

Eating out can mean going out to a nice restaurant, trying new foods, and/or being indulgent. Instead of denying yourself, split rich foods and desserts with someone, and add a salad or raw or cooked vegetables on the side.

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