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I was logged into MyRegence this morning, which is the online component for people like me that have Regence Blue Shield for health insurance, and I came across a great little article I wanted to share.

7 Tips to Eat Out for Less
Learn how you can dine out for less money — while still making healthy choices.
by Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

Finding good-for-you food and good value isn’t always easy when dining out these days. Too often, the less you spend for a meal, the more calories you’ll end up buying — and consuming. For instance ordering nachos, a big burrito and a sweet tea might cost you six or seven dollars — and about half-a-day’s worth of calories. This might seem like a good deal at first. But you probably won’t feel that great about it afterwards.But it is possible to get good value while making healthy choices. Here are some strategies:

  1. Pre-plan: You can find menus for many restaurants online. Many chains often post nutrition facts on specific menu items as well. Research Web sites and user comments before you go out to eat whenever possible.
  2. Don’t leave home too hungry: People tend to order more food when their stomachs are growling. Eating something light an hour or so before a meal will help curb your hunger. A piece of fruit, sliced veggies, a small bowl of cereal or a glass of low-fat milk are all good options.
  3. Go for the appetizers: Order up one or two as a meal as long as they’re not fried or drenched in cheese or butter. Try meat-free appetizers that feature fresh vegetables, whole grains or local seafood.
  4. Share with friends: Splitting dishes with friends saves you cash — and calories. Most restaurants offer portions large enough that one entrée and a small side are more than enough for two. When you share with larger groups you can get more flavors into the mix. Just be sure your friends are open to healthier menu options!
  5. Drink smart: Ordering beverages can make your bill climb in a hurry. Especially alcohol. If you order tap water (maybe with a slice of lemon or lime), you’re paying nothing, adding zero calories, and maybe filling yourself up so you don’t overeat. Smart call!
  6. Have a strategy for dessert: When you skip dessert you’re saving money — and usually excess calories. If you do feel the need for a sweet finish, consider something fruit-based. If you make a more indulgent choice, share it with a friend. Or cut it in half when it gets to the table and save the rest for later.
  7. Look for bargains: Last but not least, become a bargain shopper. Many restaurants offer deals during off-peak hours or on mid-week days. Early bird dinner specials can offer significant savings. This is good time to get a group together for a meal.

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University.

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