Dining Out-Nutrition Survival Guide for Holiday Parties and Restaurants
Dining Out During Holidays
The holiday season is right around the corner – that means lots of time spent surrounded by family and friends and lots of food! Whether it’s a holiday party hosted by your family or if you’re going out to eat with friends, these social gatherings make it challenging for us to stick to our usual eating patterns. However, with our “Dining Out-Nutrition Survival Guide,” you can learn how to eat out without compromising your health!
Three in five Americans dine out at least once a week and even more often during the holiday season. There are several reasons for that.
- The holiday season makes people busier than usual. From endless shopping to working to visits with family and friends, there is not much time left for home-cooked meals. As a result, people often fall back on eating out since it’s more convenient and requires less time and effort.
- People may not like to cook all together and may find cooking stressful. Therefore, they may look at the holiday season as a time to feel festive and eat something extra delicious. Cooking – is the last thing they want to stress about.
- Another reason is that holidays give us a chance to escape the typical life routine, socialize with friends and family, and visit new places. Stores and cities are decorated beautifully, holiday music is playing, and many people want a chance to experience this.
Nutritional Value of Restaurant and Home Meals
Did you know that restaurants and holiday meals have been reported to have almost a whole day's worth of salt and fat?3 Fat, sugar, and salt are ingredients in many dishes, and restaurants usually use more than usual because they make our food taste just the way we like it. These three ingredients can be a problem for people with chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases.4
A high intake of calories may lead to weight gain if there is not enough physical activity. Excessive amounts of sugar can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. People with diabetes, specifically, would need to be cautious about how much sugar they are intaking. Also, too much salt can raise our blood pressure, and excess saturated fat can contribute to heart disease.
Tips For Eating Out
- Choose vegetables, meat, or fish that are steamed, broiled, or baked. Asking for dressings on the side and avoiding cream-based or cheesy sauces are keys when eating out. Here are some tips and tricks you can use when eating out!
- Avoid using the saltshaker at the table. Doing this can help prevent extra salt intake.
- Share an entree! Many entrees are big enough for two people.
- Request sauces and dressings on the side! They contribute large amounts of calories, salt, and fat. Doing this will give you more control over how much you have with each bite!
- Drink still or sparkling water and eat more vegetables! Staying hydrated will fool your body into feeling fuller.
- Ask for your vegetables to be grilled or steamed. Non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, leafy greens, carrots, cauliflower...) help keep you fuller longer.
- Add a simple side salad to your meal.
- If you are dining at a chain restaurant, look up the nutrition information online and make an informed decision based on your health needs.
- Make sure you are taking your time when eating. Slowing down and enjoying your meal and the company you are with gives your body time to process what you are eating, and it will help you know when you are full. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain, "Hey, I'm full!"
- Do not feel like you need to finish all the food you order. Listen to your body. If you have leftovers and do not want to waste food, ask your server for a to-go container to continue enjoying the food at home!
1. Eating out. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/eating-out.html. Published September 20, 2022. Accessed December 1, 2022.
2. Epter, Anthony, "Eating Out in Modern American Society: Why Do People Make the Choice to Eat Outside the Home?" (2009). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 77.
3. Scourboutakos MJ, Semnani-Azad Z, L’Abbe MR. Restaurant Meals: Almost a Full Day’s Worth of Calories, Fats, and Sodium. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(14):1373–1374. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6159
4. “Heart Disease and Stroke.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 Sept. 2022