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Eating Out with Health in Mind

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Chauncey Crumpacker and Gladys Glick

Want to maintain your cancer-preventive diet while dining away from home? Here are some tips.

At The Fountains residence in Millbrook, New York, Chauncey Crumpacker and Gladys Glick are conscious of making healthier choices when dining out.

"I sometimes eat only half the portion they serve and take the rest back to my apartment," says Gladys. "I try to choose fish or an entree that has a little heart next to it because it's healthier."

Chauncey, a survivor of prostate and colon cancers, always drinks a large glass of low-sodium vegetable juice before starting his meal. "It's filling, tasty and good for what ails you," he comments. When he indulges in his favorite butter pecan ice cream, he "trades off" by avoiding rolls and starchy sides like mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese during the first part of the meal.

Follow these additional tips for healthy dining out.

1) Fill up on The Good Stuff.

Seek out healthy options: lots of veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, beans and fruit. AICR recommends eating at least 5 servings of fruits and non-starchy vegetables each day.

Although moderate amounts of starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn can be part of a healthy diet, they do not count towards this goal. So go for the greens and other brightly colored veggies most of the time. Most restaurants offer healthy alternatives such as fruit (apple slices or oranges) and salads with low-calorie dressings.

2) Share.

Share an entrée or order an appetizer as your main course to keep portion sizes reasonable. It often takes only a few bites to become satisfied. So slow down and savor each bite.

3) Be Informed.

Chain restaurants display nutrition information. Use the following guide:

  • Calories: aim for 400-500 per meal unless your calorie needs are especially high.
  • Trans fat: avoid.
  • Saturated fat: 20 grams or less per day (lower is better).
  • Sodium: lower is better: aim for 600 milligrams or less per meal.
  • Fiber: aim for a minimum of 25 grams per day.

Also look for foods high in vitamins, minerals and fiber: vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

4) Navigate The Buffet.

Buffets can be tricky. Look over the entire buffet before you begin so you can formulate a plan. This way you avoid overfilling your plate. Try dividing your plate this way:

  • 1/2 veggies (spinach, tomato, cucumber, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
  • 1/4 whole grains (whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, etc.)
  • 1/4 lean protein (tuna, beans, peas, chicken, cottage cheese, etc.)

5) Sip Smart.

Your beverage of choice should always be water or another non-caloric drink. AICR's expert report recommends avoiding sugary drinks (like sodas). If you drink alcohol, limit it to one standard-size alcoholic beverage (a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce beer) a day for women, or two a day for men.

6) Simple Tricks:

  • Request salad dressing on the side (to add sparingly).
  • Refuse the bread or chip basket.
  • Fill up on broth-based soups.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit.

Published on August 20, 2013

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