Each year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month during March. This year's theme is "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right" with an emphasis on the message that food can be healthy AND delicious. For many people, eating is an event that goes beyond warming something up in the microwave to eat for dinner. For the ultimate experience, registered dietitians encourage patients to use their five senses in the following ways when preparing and eating food:

Young Girl Eating Salad
  • Listen to the crunch of fresh vegetables and the sizzling of a hot pan.
  • Smell the aromatics from herbs and spices.
  • Touch kitchen gadgets; use your hands for mixing.
  • See a variety of colors and shapes on your plate. Set the table and enjoy the experience.
  • Taste a combination of flavors, textures, and temperatures when cooking food.

Even though many of us would love to have the time to prepare a home cooked meal every night, the reality is that busy schedules often warrant eating out frequently. Thankfully, restaurants, including fast food chains, can also be a place for us to “enjoy the taste of eating right” even when we’re not at home. Here are some of my top tips for eating healthy while dining out:

For less fat:

  • Ask for regular or kids' sized meals, not deluxe or super-size.
  • Skip the extra bacon, cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream.
  • Order baked or grilled, not fried.
  • Eat the meat and poultry, not the skin or breading.
  • Skip fries and onion rings, or get a small order and share.
  • Ask for sauces, gravies, or dressings on the side so you can control how much you're consuming.

For less sugar:

  • Skip the sodas and sweetened tea, opting for diet soda or water.
  • Split your favorite dessert with a friend or opt to order a fruit cup for a low-calorie sweet ending to your meal.

For more fruits and veggies:

  • Order tomato, lettuce, and onions on your sandwiches.
  • Order your pizza with extra veggies.
  • Order a salad or grilled veggies instead of fries.

Other healthful ideas:

  • If available, order sandwiches on wheat bread.
  • Eat half and save the other half for later.
  • Enjoy the experience of your meal, including the people you're with, as well as the flavors of your meal. Mindful eating can help you appreciate all the ingredients that were used to make your meal delicious.
  • Take time to eat your meal; it typically takes about 15-20 minutes for your brain and stomach to register that you are full. Slowing down your pace of eating can help you get full on smaller portion sizes and fewer calories.

Whether you’re dining in or eating out, healthy eating can be possible with a little creativity and pre-planning. If you love to cook at home and constantly look for new recipes that meet your health needs, I invite you to check out the nutrition search on Myrecipes.com which allows users to search recipes based on desired amount of calories, fat, carbs, cholesterol, etc. If eating out is more of your style, Calorieking.com is a great resource for searching nutrition information on menu items from popular restaurants across the country, as well as every day grocery products.