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Hold the fat—How to have it your way when eating out

Whether it’s a quick meal on the run, an elegant evening of fine dining or just an excuse to avoid washing dishes, eating out has become part of our everyday lifestyle. In fact, the average American eats one in five meals away from home.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to monitor the fat content of food when someone else is doing the cooking. But thanks to the growing willingness of restaurants to please health-conscious patrons, it’s possible to order a truly low-fat meal. Here’s how:

  • Look for special notes and symbols indicating low-fat menu items. If low-fat selections aren’t flagged, scan the menu for dishes that are broiled, grilled, poached, roasted or steamed. Steer clear of fried or deep-fried dishes, sometimes described as “crispy” or “battered.” Watch out for butter sauces as well as cheese- and cream-based sauces, which are often identified by terms like “au gratin,” “creamed,” “parmesan” or “scalloped.”
  • Have the chef remove the poultry skin and visible fat from other meats.
  • Find out if your meal can be prepared without oil, butter or margarine.
  • Ask that salad dressings, sauces, gravies, condiments and toppings be served on the side so that you can control how much you use.
  • Have the server limit your serving of meat, fish or poultry to three ounces—about the size of a deck of cards. You also can limit yourself by ordering an appetizer-sized portion.
  • Request fresh fruit for dessert, even if it’s not listed on the menu. Angel food cake and sorbets are good choices, too.