Eating Healthy when Eating Out

I am an advocate of eating from home or at home, for both kids and parents. I recommend limiting eating meals that are from restaurants to once per week or less. The reality is that many families eat out much more often than once a week. In many cases, restaurant meals are higher in calories, fat, sodium and additives. Even meals that seem to be healthy may not have the nutritional value you are seeking.

Take the quiz below to see how you might navigate choices regarding restaurant menus:

1. Which of these is highest in calories?

A. Chicken Caesar salad from Chili’s.
B. Small chocolate milk shake from Burger King.
C. One Big Mac.

2. Which of these is highest in fat?

A. Lasagna Classico (dinner portion) at Olive Garden.
B. Quesadilla Explosion Salad from Chili’s.
C. Large fry from McDonald’s.

3. Which of these is lowest in sodium?

A. Applebee’s Cajun Shrimp Pasta.
B. Margherita Pizza from California Pizza Kitchen.
C. Large bowl of chili from Wendy’s.

Answers:

1. A. The grilled chicken Caesar salad from Chili’s has the most calories (640 calories). This salad does provide other quality nutrients and, for an active person, this is not necessarily an excessive amount of calories for one meal.
2. B. The Quesadilla Explosion Salad has 88 grams of fat, 3000 mg of sodium and 1360 calories—in one salad!
3. C. The bowl of chili from Wendy’s includes the lowest amount in sodium with 1330 mg. This amount is still relatively high for one food item, especially considering that the recommended daily limit for an adult is about 2000 mg of sodium.

The point of this quiz is not to imply that I recommend eating Big Macs and milk shakes rather than salads. The point is that it is difficult to know what is a better choice when eating out.

These categories of menu terms should help steer you in the right direction of making healthier decisions when eating at a restaurant:

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For more nutritional information about the foods mentioned in the quiz above (and thousands more), go to www.calorieking.com. You should also ask the restaurant staff for a brochure that includes the nutrition information for their menu. If you have Internet access, you can research it yourself (if it is published on the restaurant’s website or a site like calorieking.com). Our registered dietitians are also able to help you select specific meal items at restaurants that fit your family’s dietary needs.

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