Healthy Dining: Not Just for Homecooked Meals Anymore

Joy Dubost PhD, RD, National Restaurant Association, Dietary Guidelines Alliance Member, @joyofnutrition

With the school year starting and all the activities that ensue, many parents are even more pressed for time to provide healthy, well-balanced meals at home for their children. For some families, this means eating away from home more frequently. However with a little thought and proper planning, healthful and delicious meals are possible when dining out. It’s All About You provides tips and suggestions to ensure a healthful diet with the right amount of physical activity. Here are a few key tips to ensure healthful eating away from home:

  • Go First. To avoid being influenced by others, be the first to order a healthful meal.
  • Whet your appetite (with something light!) Start your meal with a broth-based soup or green salad. Ask for salad dressing on the side.
  • Control your portion. Ask if they have a lighter version or lunch size portion of your entrée. If you order an entrée, take the leftovers home, refrigerate and enjoy it as another meal or snack the next day. Or, split an entrée with a family member and order an extra side salad.
  • Take your time. Eat slowly and enjoy the experience. Be mindful of the flavor combinations and savor the food.
  • Splurge Sensibly. Skip dessert or order what you want and just take a few bites. You could also share the dessert with the rest of the table. You may also choose healthier choices such as fresh fruit, sorbets, treats with whole grains, or lighter versions of your favorite treats. Paying attention to serving size will help you curb your calories while still enjoying the treats you love.

It really is about taking a sensible approach. You can enjoy your favorite foods while still being mindful of portions. Choosing smaller sizes of foods and beverages, especially those that are higher in calories, also sets an example for your children. Enjoying nutritious meals while dining out as a family sets the stage for healthy, life-long habits in a child.

For more information on a practical approach to healthy eating and physical activity, check out the It’s All About You toolkit from The Dietary Guidelines Alliance and visit  to build and track your own healthy eating plan.