A study of Americans’ dining habits finds that we eat out an average two days a week and when we do, we’re getting about 200 extra calories. This is true whether the restaurant is full-service or fast-food. And what’s worse — when we dine in restaurants instead of at home, we also eat more saturated fat, sugar, and sodium.
These findings are from a recent study led by American Cancer Society researchers. They analyzed surveys from 12,528 adults conducted from 2003 to 2010.
According to lead researcher Binh Nguyen, PhD, “If you eat out 2 days per week and do not exercise or reduce intake during the day, the additional caloric intake is about 20,000 calories per year, the equivalent of about 6 pounds annually.”
But you can eat out and still eat healthy, if you plan in advance and follow some simple strategies:
Look up the restaurant’s menu online before you head out. Research the calorie counts of some menu items and decide in advance what you’ll order. Remember, items that may seem healthy, such as salads, can sometimes contain loads of fat and calories thanks to dressings or toppings.
If you can’t find nutrition details in advance, be ready to recognize some selections likely to be lower in fat, such as clear, broth-based soups or plain lettuce or spinach salads with the dressing on the side. Look for entrée options that are grilled, broiled, or steamed instead of fried, or ask your waiter to recommend some lighter menu choices.
If you decide to indulge in a special dish or can’t pass up that irresistible dessert, plan to share. It will help give you a taste of what you crave without overindulging.