What You Need to Know to Eat Healthy Away from Home

By Emily Schmitt, RD, LDN, Campus Recreation Services

It’s a gorgeous July day.  You woke up extra early to start the 4+ hour drive to the Carolina beaches.  You rushed out of the house, only leaving time to grab a cup of coffee for breakfast.  Two hours into your trip, a deep rumble is heard throughout the car.

There’s no doubt about it – you are hungry and you must stop to eat.  As you pass one exit after another, you wonder how you’re going to find healthy food within the sea of interstate favorites.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Brent Moore

What is a healthy-conscious Terp to do? 

Read below for what you need to know to make healthy choices when eating out:

  • Custom Order Your Food– modify your order to slim it down and beef up the nutrition:
    • Choose a smart preparation method – Select steamed, grilled, baked, roasted, and broiled dishes versus those that are fried, buttered, creamed, crispy, and breaded to control calorie and fat intake.
    • Switch to whole grains – Order your sandwich on whole grain bread.  Test out whole grain pizza crust.  Change to whole wheat pasta or brown rice, if available.  Whole grains provide more fiber, iron, and B vitamins than refined grains.
    • Go for fresh fruits and vegetables – Love the salad bar?  Aim to fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Limit higher fat options, including mayonnaise-based salads, bacon, cheese, and croutons.
    • Limit sauces and dressings – Sauces and dressings can be high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium.  To allow yourself to control the amount on your dish, request that it be served on the side.  Ask if a low calorie version is available.
    • Request a healthy side – Instead of the traditional side item, ask to substitute with a side salad, steamed vegetables, baked potato, apple slices, or yogurt.
  • Don’t Drink Your Meal– Select water, low-fat or fat free milk, unsweetened iced tea, or another low calorie beverage.  Sodas, juices, sports drinks, specialty coffees, and alcohol can contain surprising amounts of calories and sugar.
  • Control Your Portions – In recent years, restaurant portion sizes have grown larger and larger.  To get the taste you want, without overeating, share a dish with a friend or family member.  Stopping at an all-you-can-eat buffet?  Order a single entrée instead.  Do not be afraid to order a small or kids size item.
  • Plan Ahead & Do Your Research – Know where you will be taking a lunch break?  Look up the restaurant menu online beforehand.  Identify what you will be ordering, and stick to your plan.  Planning not an option?  Read the menu carefully and ask questions.  Don’t hesitate to ask to see the menu’s nutrition information.

What tips do you have for eating healthfully when you’re away from home?  Share them with us below.

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