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Eating Healthy While Eating Out

Holidays are times for traditions, gatherings with friends and family, special meals and giving and receiving gifts. The holiday season is also a good time for shopping - though it may be a bit hectic. Coupled with shopping is the enormous "urge" to indulge in the ever so popular past-time of EATING OUT.

Eating in restaurants has become the way for people of all ages. But for those with health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, eating out can become a major challenge. While some fast food operators are becoming more health conscious, fast food and chain restaurants are still being frequented where foods are more than likely to be high in fat, sodium and calories. However, restaurants have changed their menu selections and many offer diners reasonable meal choices.

Whether you are diabetic, have high blood pressure or are just counting calories, you can enjoy meals away from home. Here are some suggestions to make eating out a healthy and happy occasion:

• Plan your meals wisely. Review your diet plan for the day and adjust accordingly. Food choices may be substituted from one meal to the next. If a favorite of yours is a higher fat entree, eat a lighter meal or choose fruit for dessert rather than chocolate cheesecake to help reduce extra calories or fat.

• Be wary of entrees proclaiming to be "low fat." These items can still contain as much as 30 grams of fat. The best way to choose food is to have the facts about the menu items. Don't hesitate to ask for specific information about the content of the food being served and for help in making choices based on that information.

• An easy way to estimate how much fat to eat each day is to divide your present or desired goal weight by three (3). For example, if you weigh 165 pounds, your goal for fat intake each day should be 55 grams (165 divided by 3) or less. The average older adult's total daily intake of fat should be no more than 60 grams of fat.

• Control "extras" on food as much as possible. Request to have extra items such as whipped cream or shredded cheese deleted from the menu selection. They can add calories and fat and may make a difference between maintaining or gaining weight. Salad dressings, special sauces, gravies and mayonnaise should be served on the side. Use little or no salt on your foods. Avoid extra portions of margarine. Food containing considerable amounts of sugar should be avoided or limited. Hot pepper sauce, sweet and sour sauce and fat-free mayonnaise can add flavor without adding unwanted extras.

• Keep meat portions small. A recommended portion size of meat is about the size of the palm of your hand. Because most restaurants serve large portions of meat, take part of your meal home with you. Grilled or broiled meats are better choices. However, even meats cooked this way can vary widely in fat and calorie content.

• If a restaurant does not provide low-sodium seasonings, bring your own personal supply. Lemon juice and herb-blend seasonings help perk up low-sodium foods.

• If you drink alcohol, keep intake moderate and drink only with meals. A general rule of thumb for what constitutes "moderate" alcohol intake is one to two servings per day. Twelve ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or one and one-half ounces of hard liquor counts as one drink. Consuming drinks with food helps lessen the effects of alcohol because the alcohol goes into your system slower.

• If you have existing health problems, make sure your talk with your physician first about alcohol intake or special dietary needs.

The next time you are away from home and the thought of food crosses your mind, remember these suggestions. Eating out can be a pleasant experience.