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The Skinny On Eating Out

May 30, 2012, 10:03 PM by Nicole Winters

The Skinny On Eating Out

Eating healthy is a challenge for many of us when going out to eat and just knowing what is healthy can be tricky too.

From onion rings to chips and dip, food temptations are all over the menu.

"I ordered the ribs," Phyllis Vellema said.

"I had the buffalo wings and fries," Erika Earl said.

Both Vellema and Earl are enjoying a fun lunch, saying they're splurging and not worrying about calories.

"Not today, because it's just kind of girls day out," Vellema said.

"When people come out to a restaurant they want to come out with friends, and you're going to splurge, it's the time you're going to eat something that might not be the best for you," Applebee's Spokesman Jim Mathis said.

Mathis says that's why many of us choose the bigger steak or double patty burger, and why many restaurants make those large, not so healthy options available.

"While we do have some of those bigger meals we also have a lot of options that are under 550 calories and others that are Weight Watchers approved," Mathis said.

Mathis says having healthy options is important for those people who want or need it.

According to a study by Public Health Nutrition, more and more of the meals we're eating out are well above the USDA's recommended calories. In fact, many of the meals have over the recommended sodium in one meal for an entire day, or more.

Sanford Health Dietician Teresa Beach says that may come as a surprise to consumers.

"They're shocked to find out maybe one burger in part is over 1,000 calories and when you add in all the others yeah, it really gets up there," Beach said.

In the study, researchers looked at nearly 31,000 meals at 245 brands of restaurants, 96 percent didn't meet the recommended combination of calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat.

It's unhealthy statistics similar to these that encouraged Sanaa Abourezk to open her Mediterranean Cuisine restaurant several years ago.

"We didn't really find many options, either very expensive meal or the fast food restaurant," Abourezk said.

Abourezk makes all of the food she services from scratch and most are low fat, low calorie meals.

"The food has to taste very good, but at the same time while you're enjoying it, you're not feeling guilty, your body is not going to be suffering later on," Abourezk said.

Whether dining at Sanaa's, Applebee's or any other restaurant, it can be hard to know what's considered healthy.

Beach says there are certain things to look for.

"Look at how it's prepared, is it grilled, is it baked, is it broiled? Anytime it doesn't have breading you're going to save yourself some calories so that's another thing to look for," Beach said.

Also, watch for descriptive words like fresh or steamed, that's usually a healthier option. Stay away from creamy or buttery toppings or sauces and just because it's a salad doesn't mean it's good for you.

"Does it have fried chicken on it or is it grilled and then don't forget the dressing. So many of us have a little salad with our dressing, instead of a little dressing with our salad," Beach said.

Most importantly, watch your portions.

"You don't know what size it is when it's coming, that's a lot of it," Vellema said.

If you're not sure ask the server or chef because, ultimately, what you choose to eat is up to you.

"The responsibility is on you, do your research," Abourezk said.

"When it comes right down to it, I think we're each responsible for what we eat," Mathis said.

Of course, there's always room for a little cheating.

"I decided since we're out I could have a little bit of a splurge," Earl said.

Beach says to try to get something from each food group on your plate, and be mindful that the amount of meat we need each day is really only about five to six ounces.

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