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Eating Healthy When Eating Out

It is possible to eat away from home, enjoy the food and company of others, and know that you have not ruined your diet.


How many times have you eaten out this week? Include breakfast at the drive thru, lunch from the vending machine, and take out dinner because of afterschool activities. We live in an age where it is not uncommon to eat out at least once a week, and for some, at least once a day. Unfortunately, when we choose to eat out we can lose control over the amount of calories we consume.

Luckily for us, we do have control over what we choose when eating out. However, it may take both self-control and knowledge to make the right choices. It is possible to eat away from home, enjoy the food and company of others, and know that you have not ruined your diet.

When it comes to ordering your beverage, ask for water or order fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or other drinks without added sugars. Drinks containing added sugars provide calories, but offer few vitamins and minerals.

When choosing a sandwich, ask for whole wheat bread. The high fiber content of whole grains may help you to feel full with fewer calories; therefore you will eat less.

In a restaurant, start your meal with a salad packed with veggies to help control hunger and feel satisfied sooner. Just watch to avoid adding large amounts of high calorie salad dressing, and other high fat toppings such as bacon, cheese, etc. If you do add salad dressing, ask for it to be served on the side. Then use only as much as you want.

Choose main dishes that include vegetables, such as stir fries, kebobs, or pasta with a tomato sauce. Eating foods containing vegetables are generally lower in calories, which may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake. 

Choose a “small” or “medium” portion; this includes main dishes, side dishes, and beverages. Many times a child’s menu is the appropriate serving size that adults need.

Order an item from the menu instead of heading for the “all-you-can-eat” buffet. Many times it may be hard to resist choosing a large variety of items and then going back for seconds of the items we didn’t chose the first time.

If main portions at a restaurant are larger than you want, there are strategies to keep you from overeating. These include ordering an appetizer or side dish instead of an entrée; share a main dish with a friend; if you can chill the extra food right away, take leftovers home in a “doggy bag.”  

Don’t feel like you have to be a member of the “clean your plate club.”  It is time to give up that membership. When you’ve eaten enough, leave the rest.

On long commutes or shopping trips, pack some fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, low-fat string cheese sticks, or a handful of unsalted nuts to help you avoid stopping for sweet or fatty snacks.

If you do happen to overeat while eating out, or maybe you don’t make the healthiest of choices, you can take action and incorporate some physical activity into your day.  Choose activities that you enjoy.  Some choices might include doing stretches, exercises, or pedaling a stationary bike while watching television. Mow the lawn with a push mower. Plant and care for a vegetable or flower garden. Play with the kids, tumble in the leaves, splash in a puddle, or dance to favorite music. Replace a coffee break with a brisk 10-minute walk and ask a friend to go with you.

Eating out doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure if you know how to make smart choices.

For more information contact the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Miller County Extension office in Room 215 of the Miller County courthouse. E-mail me at or call 870-779-3609. You can also get great tips on facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, and  twitter at @MillerCountyFCS or visiting our website at

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


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