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Healthy options when dining out, from the June 2014 Harvard Health Letter

Dining out can sometimes threaten healthy eating plans. The butter, sugar, and salt that chefs add, plus gigantic portion sizes, can make even a healthy heart stutter. But eating out can be a wonderful and healthful experience with a few adjustments and a little planning, reports the June 2014 Harvard Health Letter.

One quick way to make a meal healthier is to make it smaller. "Large portions are a challenge in many restaurants, and once the food is on the plate, it can be difficult to resist," says Registered Dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. She offers three strategies to avoid eating more than one's fill:

  • cut an entrée in half the moment it arrives, and ask the wait staff to wrap it up
  • split an entrée with a dining companion
  • skip an entrée altogether and order two appetizers instead

Here's another way to make restaurant meals healthier: ask a server how the meal is prepared before ordering. "If something is typically prepared in butter, ask for it to be steamed or broiled without added butter, or ask for it to be sautéed in olive oil instead," says McManus. Likewise, ask that the chef go easy on added salt. Other strategies include:

Make substitutions. Choose brown rice instead of white, or ask for black beans instead of French fries.

Ask for sauce on the side. That lets you control how much sauce to eat.

Plan ahead: Look at the restaurant's menu on the Internet, call ahead and ask questions, or visit the restaurant in advance to check out the offerings.

Read the full-length article: "Restaurant meals: How to make them healthier"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Health Letter

  • Easy exercises for healthy knees
  • Ask the doctor: Is chelation therapy an effective way to stave off heart disease?
  • 4 Fast mood boosters
  • Is summer heat putting you at risk?
  • Quick fixes for aching elbows
  • Restaurant meals: How to make them healthier
  • Best ways to battle irritable bowel syndrome
  • Are cholesterol lowering statins for everyone?
  • Caregiver health needs more attention, say researchers
  • Are you getting all of your prescriptions filled?
  • When dementia screenings are appropriate

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.