It’s 2024! Here’s some advice on eating healthier

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The start of a new year is a time for deep reflection. It’s a time to take stock of where things stand and where new focus should be directed. Goals and plans will be made in earnest across the country and the world to move the needle in the right direction.

A 2024 Forbes Health poll that was just released at the end of the year found that 48% of respondents wanted to have improved fitness, 38% wanted to have improved finances, 36% improved mental health, 34% weight loss and 32% improved diet among others.

It’s not surprising that weight and health registered in the top three of five goals. Adult obesity is probably driving a lot of these goals. From 1999 to 2020 U.S. obesity has increased from 30.5% to 41.9% and severe obesity has increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.

Doctors and dieticians will all say that the key to maintaining your waistline is following a balanced diet and that means figuring out how to eat healthy when you are eating out.

It’s common knowledge that taking your time to eat, cut portions, chewing thoroughly and avoiding all-you-can-eat buffets are just some of the quick and easy strategies that should be implemented, but there are a whole host of others beyond the basics that can help.

Here are some of my favorite tips I’ve collected over the last year with tips for eating healthy when dining out. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture shares — the benefits of healthy eating add up over time, bite by bite.

Tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Decode the menu: Look for choices that are baked, broiled, grilled, poached, steamed, boiled, or roasted to limit extra saturated fat and salt. If you aren’t sure, ask how menu items are prepared and/or if they can be prepared a different way.

Start your meal with veggies: If you start your meal with a salad or eat your vegetables first, you will feel full sooner and ensure that you get valuable vegetable nutrients.

Split your dish: When ordering food, portions can be very large. Consider sharing a meal with someone else or making two meals out of it by saving half for the next day.

Look for fruits and veggies: Pick dishes that highlight vegetables like stir-fries, veggie wraps, or kabobs. Select fruit as a side dish or for dessert.

Plan ahead and compare choices: Before you order takeout or head to a restaurant, see if menu information is available on a website. Look for choices that are lower in calories, sodium, and saturated fat.

Choose your sauce: Pick sauces made from vegetables like marinara, rather than cream or butter sauces to limit calories from saturated fat. You can ask for them on the side or for the dish to be prepared with less or no sauce.

Tips from the

Have a healthy snack before you arrive: If you’re hungry when you arrive at a restaurant, you may end up eating too much. One way to prevent this is to eat a healthy snack before you get there. A low-calorie, high-protein snack like yogurt could make you feel more full and help prevent overeating.

Drink water before and during your meal: Water is a fantastic choice for drinking before and with a meal, especially if you drink it instead of sugar-sweetened drinks. Replacing sugar-sweetened drinks with water can help reduce your intake of calories and added sugar.

Check how food is cooked and prepared: The way food is cooked can have a significant impact on the amount of calories it contains. Look for food that has been steamed, grilled, roasted or poached. In general, these cooking methods equate to less fat and therefore fewer calories. Foods that are described on the menu as pan-fried, fried, crispy, crunchy or sautéed will usually contain more fat and more calories.

Order your meal before everyone else: Other people can influence our decisions without us really noticing. In social situations, people tend to mimic each other subconsciously, and dining out is no exception. If you’re eating with a group that is likely to order something that doesn’t fit into your healthy eating plan, make sure you order first.

Order two appetizers instead of a main: Studies show that people are more likely to overeat when they’re served bigger portions. If you are going to a restaurant where you know the portions are huge, try ordering two appetizers instead of a main course. This can help you fill up without going overboard with the calories.

Tips from the British Heart Foundation

Keep it lean: Choose dishes which are based on lean proteins like chicken or turkey (where you can remove the skin) or lean red meats like fillet of pork or beef. Avoid fattier cuts of meat like belly pork or rump steak and remove any visible fat like the fat around the edge of a chop. Watch out for battered and deep fried dishes - even if the contents are lean (like chicken, fish, tofu or vegetables) the coating means they will come with lots of extra fat and calories.

Adapt your dishes: Don’t be afraid to ask the restaurant to adapt dishes. It’s not usually a problem to replace chips with a jacket potato, salad or vegetables. You can also ask for no extra cheese, butter or oil, and to put sauces in a dish on the side.

Tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Start smart: Drink a big glass of water as soon as you sit down. It’s been shown to help you eat less and skip the chips and salsa or bread that comes to your table before you order. Better yet, ask your server to remove them.

Tips from WebMD

Pay attention to the description: Grilled chicken vs. fried chicken. Broiled fish vs. fried fish. When dining out, look for possible code words to healthier food with less saturated fat. Baked, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted, steamed, “In its own juice,” and garden fresh are all descriptions that mean you’re more likely to be eating something healthy.

Tips from the

Eat your meals at regular times. It is a good practice to try to consume three meals and two small snacks on most days. Remember to eat your meals on time and never skip a meal or snack. Also, consider eating one small snack before going out to eat outside of your home. You will experience a difference in mood and will have better control over your food choices once you get there.

Choose a variety of foods. The simplest way to make sure you are eating a well-balanced meal is to fill your plate with plenty of colors, which ensures that you are getting a variety of nutrients. Choose meals with an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Include skim or low fat milk and dairy products, beans and lean meats, whole or enriched grain breads and cereals in your daily diet. Then, from time to time, allow yourself a small treat.

Enjoy the conversation. It’s all about the ambiance, the music and the people around you. Try to create a relaxed environment during your meals.

Wishing ambiance, music, conversation and delicious healthy meals to all of us in the New Year!

Writer Alexi Larsen looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share info about your menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of exciting outdoor spaces, new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look? E-mail Alexis Larsen at with the information.

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