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Tips for healthy restaurant eating.

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Even as restaurants are increasingly becoming more nutrition-conscious, diners also need to shoulder some of the responsibility for their nutritional habits and practice restraint. Recent statistics from the National Restaurant Association show that 50 percent of meals in this country today are eaten out. In 1995, the association expects that figure to rise to 75 percent.

The American Dietetic Association and the National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics recommend these tips for customers who want to maintain healthy diet habits:

*Never assume. Ask how the restaurant prepares its food.

*Restaurant portions of ten are too ample. Leave some food on your plate and ask for a doggie bag. Or split an entree and share the calories.

*Bring your own restaurant survival kit, e.g. your favorite low-cal dressing, sodium-free dressing or low-cal butter substitute.

*Put your napkin on the plate when finished so that you don't continue to eat as the conversation lingers.

*Request dressing on the side, then dip a bite of food into the dressing for flavor in each bite with fewer calories.

*Ask to have the bread basket served with the meal rather than before to prevent overeating while waiting for your food.

*Ask the cook for skinless chicken, or vegetables without butter, and substitute fruit or small green salads for French fries.

To test how restaurants are willing to comply with customers' nutritional needs, a group of Purdue University students surveyed managers of 55 full-service restaurants in their immediate vicinities of Lafayette and West Lafayette, Ind. The group found that many already try to control levels of dietary fat, salt and calories in some menu items, or are willing to make requested modifications. The students did not include fast-food establishments in their survey.

Leticia Mitchell, a Purdue dietician who oversaw the survey, suggests that patrons go into restaurants that have those monster, all-you-can-eat buffets with a plan. For instance, make two trips, the first for fresh fruit and vegetables, the second for an entree. Or, if you really like to make several trips, serve yourself half portions each time. And you don't have to skimp on dessert; most restaurants offer sherbet, low-cal gelatin or fresh fruit as ice cream substitutes. "Or ask for a half portion of a more fattening item," says Mitchell.
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Title Annotation:American Dietetic Association and the National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics
Publication:Medical Update
Date:May 1, 1990
Words:378
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