The average American aged 8 and older eats an average of 4.2 commercially prepared meals each week, according to the National Restaurant Association. The report begs the question: If you're not preparing many of your own meals, is it still possible to eat healthy? The answer is "yes" - if you keep a few key points in mind.

  1. A Better Plate Many restaurants have taken heed of the nation's growing obesity problem and are now providing healthier options for diners. Many establishments offer a side salad or fresh fruit instead of high-fat french fries. Even if the menu doesn't state this offering, just ask your server. Chances are they will be more than happy to accommodate your needs. Many diners fall prey to the lure of the bread basket. If you know you're likely to indulge in more than one slice, ask the wait staff to remove the basket. That way, you're less likely to be tempted.
  2. The Doggie Bag Solution Restaurant portions have ballooned in recent years, and many of us don't know when to stop eating. Even if it seems embarrassing, ask your server to bring a to-go container to the table when she brings the food. Then divide your entree in half and put one half in the doggie bag. This way, you won't overindulge and you'll also have lunch or dinner for the next day.
  3. Just a Bite The "small plates" trend has taken hold across the nation, with many restaurants offering a wider selection of appetizers and half portions for diners who like variety or have smaller appetites. Take advantage of this and order a small salad, along with one or two appetizers as your entree. You won't have to deal with an oversized portion, and you'll enjoy different flavors so you won't feel deprived.

Frances Largeman, R.D., earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York. Frances has appeared on local and national TV and has been quoted in Cooking Light magazine, as well as food and health sections of local newspapers across the country.