Texas Living

Eat Well When You Eat Out

By Jen Alexander 10.27.15

Autumn means cooler temperatures and warm, comforting foods. But some of our favorite down-home meals aren’t always as good for us as we’d like to think. October is Eat Better, Eat Together Month, so when you’re looking through the menu at your favorite local spot, keep these tips in mind for a more healthful dining experience.

­—Start with a salad. Filling up on greens and raw vegetables can help you keep your appetite in check when the chicken fried steak arrives. But go easy on the creamy dressing, cheese, and croutons — they add calories but have few nutrients.

—Search for items labeled “light” or “healthy.” Dishes with these notes are often portioned to provide fewer calories per serving and are prepared using less fat, oil, or other calorie-laden ingredients. But beware the low-carb label — sometimes these dishes can be higher in calories than traditional menu items, despite their carb-free ingredients.

 —Ask about cooking options. Does the fish platter only come with fried fish? Ask if the chef will bake, broil, or pan sear it for you. If the steak is typically basted with butter during cooking, ask for yours to be cooked dry. If the kids only ask for chicken at a sit-down spot, request grilled or baked versions instead of the usual fried items.

—Select more nutritious sides. French fries may often be the only side item offered on a children’s meal, but if the littlest diner likes green beans just as much, request a switch. Do the same with grown-up plates, too, and you’ll get an extra boost of vitamins and fiber.

—Grab a to-go box. Ask the server to bring a container with your meal at the beginning, and place half the food in it before you take the first bite. Out of sight, out of mind — and mouth — means you’re less likely to overindulge.

Eating better doesn’t mean boring or bland. Small changes to your normal diet can make a big difference.

Committed to eating better all the time? Find a host of delicious recipes in our archive.