Eating out can hurt heart health, expert warns

Eating out can hurt heart health, expert warns
One tip for restaurant-goers: avoid menu items that are fried, battered, creamy or cheesy.

(HealthDay)—Eating out can lead to weight gain and increase people's risk for heart disease, diabetes and other serious health issues because popular menu items often have more fat, calories and saturated fat than meals typically prepared at home.

That's according to an expert from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and it's particularly worrisome since a LivingSocial Dining Out Survey revealed Americans eat out, on average, four to five times each week.

"When you combine and the poor that can come along with dining out, it could be a recipe for disaster for your ," Jody Gilchrist, at the UAB Heart & Vascular Clinic at Acton Road, said in a university news release.

"If you eat out enough and are not careful about what you eat, you could be looking at metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that raises your risk for and other health problems, including high cholesterol and diabetes," Gilchrist added.

One additional meal eaten away from home each week can add roughly two extra pounds a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are ways people can avoid extra calories and protect their heart health when dining out, Gilchrist pointed out. She offered the following tips on how to make healthier choices at restaurants:

  • Be prepared. "If you know you're eating out, conserve calories ahead of time," Gilchrist recommended. "Also, investigate where you are going if you can. Use the Internet to look up healthy menu options, or download a smartphone app that lists calorie counts for specific restaurants. See what healthy menu options they have, and choose one of those instead of something with more calories or fat."
  • Limit portion size. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that eating meals in restaurants where portions are large is linked to obesity. "If you have to eat fast food, choose something from the kids' menu," Gilchrist said. "In a restaurant, pick an appetizer instead of a full meal, or split an entree with someone to save ."
  • Consider how food is prepared. "Don't be shy about asking how something is cooked or for substitutions," noted Gilchrist. "Key words to avoid include 'fried,' 'batter,' 'creamy' and 'cheesy.' Stick with foods that are baked, broiled, grilled, steamed or stir-fried." Replace high-fat dressings with balsamic vinegar dressing on the side, or skip dressing entirely. Opt for a vegetable or baked potato instead of french fries.
  • Lighten up. "Try to get 'lite' cheese on pizza, and then load it with veggies," Gilchrist advised. "Add as many vegetables to a meal as you can, and eat them first. They will help you feel full more quickly, and you get the bonus of added nutrition."

More information: The American Heart Association provides more tips on how to eat healthy when dining out.

Related Stories

Super-sizing great for your wallet but not your waist

May 06, 2008

From mega mugs of soda that don't even fit into the average car cup holder to jumbo orders of fries that could feed an elephant, many fast-food restaurants are offering super-sized portions that appear to be easy on the pocketbook.

'Healthy' restaurants help make us fat, says a newl study

Sep 24, 2007

If you're like most, you eat worst at healthy restaurants. The "health halos" of healthy restaurants often prompt consumers to treat themselves to higher-calorie side dishes, drinks or desserts than when they eat at fast-food ...

Strategies for eating out, managing weight differ by gender

May 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- When eating out, women more often use weight management strategies -- such as ordering salad dressing on the side and having half of the meal packaged to go -- than men do, according to a University of Texas ...

Fast food menus still pack a lot of calories, study finds

Nov 13, 2012

With grilled chicken, salads and oatmeal now on fast food menus, you might think fast food has become healthier. And indeed, there has been greater attention in the media and legislatively, paid to the healthfulness of fast ...

Recommended for you

New drowning rescue steps could save lives

13 hours ago

A New Zealand researcher from the University of Auckland, Jonathon Webber, is part of an international study team that has come up with a new way to help prevent drowning.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

aroc91
5 / 5 (2) Mar 01, 2013
This just in: Eating bad things is bad for you, regardless of where they come from
alfie_null
not rated yet Mar 02, 2013
Producing dishes that are appealing because they have fat mouth-feel is less expensive than producing dishes that are appealing because they are savory.
d3bug
5 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2013
This just in: Water is wet. Gravity Sucks.

/Captain Obvious in the house.
aennen
not rated yet Mar 02, 2013
News Flash: common sense gene has been found and removed
jibbles
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 02, 2013
i don't get it. i eat out my girlfriend on a regular basis, yet she's fit as a fiddle.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (3) Mar 02, 2013
i don't get it. i eat out my girlfriend on a regular basis, yet she's fit as a fiddle.

If I don't eat out my wife regularly it will be bad for my health.
TheKnowItAll
not rated yet Mar 03, 2013
lol to all of you :) On a serious note; People do know and do not care. The issue is not what and where people eat but rather the psychological reasons as to why they do so. Rectifying the source of the problem would undermine too much so that's why it will be left unsaid.