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Returning to restaurants and to healthy eating – Harvard Health

Posted: July 5, 2021 at 1:49 am

Lots of us gave up restaurant food when the pandemic started. Maybe it was due to concerns about COVID-19 exposure, the closing of favorite eateries, finances, or simply the joy of cooking at home.

Now, as we return to occasional restaurant dining or takeout, its time to enjoy the foods we missed. And just as we did before the pandemic, its important to keep good nutrition in mind when ordering.

Thanks to online menus, its easy to see the offerings of most restaurants and food trucks. Large restaurant chains even post nutrition information. Take advantage of this by looking at menus before eating out. That way, youll get an idea of the healthy options available to you and what you might order.

If a restaurant doesnt offer an online menu, call in advance and ask what they serve.

Restaurant food is delicious for a reason: its typically full of salt, sugar, saturated fat, and refined grains (white flours, bread, or pasta).

Words that will alert you you to those ingredients include

If you see those words describing a menu item, look for something a little healthier. Such choices might include vegetarian or vegan options, fish, or chicken. Why is this helpful? Because eating fewer foods with unhealthy ingredients and focusing on healthier ingredients can lower risks for weight gain and chronic disease, such as heart disease or diabetes.

If the menu doesnt offer foods on the healthier side, enlist your servers help. Explain that youre following a healthy diet and need a meal that will stay within your guidelines.

That might mean

While eating wisely is crucial to health, it might be okay to splurge on a less-than-healthy meal on occasion.

"You dont want to deny yourself the pleasure of food. If you feel like youre always being deprived, you may want to give up on a healthy diet. Just try not to make splurging a habit," suggests registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

She recommends using the 90/10 rule: eat healthfully 90% of the time, and allow yourself to cheat on a healthy diet 10% of the time. Out of 21 meals in a week (three meals, seven days a week), that would amount to two meals.

Other ways to reduce the impact of a big, fatty, sugary, salty restaurant meal:

And remember to take your time with every bite: "Eating mindfully will help you slow down, enjoy your meal, and listen to your bodys hunger cues so you dont eat too much," McManus says.

And after the year weve had, you may really want to savor these moments.

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Returning to restaurants and to healthy eating - Harvard Health

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