Tips for eating out

Sanra R. Cain For Better Living

It is possible to eat out and still eat healthy. Many restaurants offer delicious meals that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. That’s good news for your health because a diet high in saturated and trans fats raises blood cholesterol. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, and it’s also a risk factor for stroke.

When eating out, ask which type of fat the restaurant uses. Try to replace the saturated and trans fats in your food with more healthful unsaturated oils. Canola, olive and corn oil are among the most desirable. Request soft and trans-fat-free margarine.

It is also important to consider the portion size. Help control your weight by asking for smaller portions, or sharing an entree with a friend or family member. You may also ask for a take-out box when your food arrives and put half in the box to take home for the next day’s lunch.

A guide to choosing healthy meals away from home

* Fried, au gratin, crispy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed or stuffed foods are high in fat and calories. Instead, look for steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted foods. If you’re not sure about a certain dish, ask your server how it’s prepared.

* Pay attention to phrases that indicate lower fat preparation such as steamed, in its own juice, garden fresh, broiled, roasted or poached.

* Even if dishes low in saturated fat and cholesterol aren’t on the menu, you may still be able to get a healthy meal. Many restaurants will prepare foods to order. Ask for items like skim milk, broiled meats and whole grain breads. If you’re not sure about a particular restaurant, phone before you go.

* High-sodium foods include those that are pickled, in cocktail sauce, smoked, in broth or au jus or in soy or teriyaki sauce. Steer clear of these.

A Word About “Fast Food”

Even in a fast food restaurant, you can make healthy choices. Fruits and salads are usually available. Skim milk and juices are on the menu and baked potatoes with a variety of topping may be a choice.

Order sandwiches to be as simple as possible. The “super size” and double and triple deckers have much more fat, calories and sodium than you need. Ask for mayonnaise and salad dressings on the side.

Keep Food Safe to Eat

One last thought about eating out. Be sure your food is cooked to the proper doneness. If

not, send it back. When taking leftover food home, be sure to get it in the refrigerator within two hours to avoid possible food contamination.

One basic recommendation is to eat a variety of foods. Make food selections to fit in the basic food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat and beans. Log onto to find your basic recommended daily amounts from each food group based on your sex, age and activity level.

Sources: University of Nebraska, American Heart Association

Makeover Crunchy Sweet Potato Casserole

1-3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch squares

1 egg

1/4 cup egg substitute

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/3 cup skim milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract


2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cold butter

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and cook for 15 – 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and place in food processor. Add the egg, egg substitute, butter, milk and extracts. Cover and process until smooth. Pour into a 1-1/2 qt. baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and flour. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes or until set. Yield: 6 servings

Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension Office director. She can be reached at

Sanra R. Cain For Better Living R. Cain For Better Living