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7 tips for eating healthier at restaurants

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7 tips for eating healthier at restaurants

Americans eat and drink too many calories, sodium, sugars, and saturated fat from restaurants. A single restaurant meal can have more sodium than a person should have for the entire day.

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Here’s the breakdown of how Americans eat:

  • 26% of daily calories comes from restaurants
  • 30% of daily sodium comes from restaurants
  • 18% of daily sugars comes from restaurants
  • 29% of saturated fat comes from restaurants

Americans deserve the opportunity to choose what's in their food. Right now, that decision is made for them by many food manufacturers and restaurants.

It’s a matter of choice.

Americans deserve the opportunity to choose how much sodium they eat. Because most of the sodium we consume is in our food before we buy it, it makes it hard for us to limit sodium. In fact, an AHA survey found that 72 percent of adults in the U.S. want sodium limits set for restaurant foods.

The good news? Some restaurants have already improved offerings and many have shown that offering healthier options is possible. Mandatory salt targets for common foods in several countries demonstrate that food and restaurants are making progress and less sodium is possible. Some restaurants are also taking sugary drinks out of kids' meals too.

That’s why today we are asking you to write to the CEOs of Arby’s, Chili’s, and the Cheesecake Factory. Tell these companies that you will be looking for healthier options when you dine at a restaurant!

Follow these seven tips and three opportunities to take action to eat healthier at restaurants:

  1. Follow hacks for restaurant foods. Leticia Orosco from Oklahoma City, 2nd place winner of our #BreakUpWithSalt contest, advised that when you eat out, ask for extra lemon or lime, no salt added, and seeds for seasoning (such as sesame, pumpkin or pine nuts) when possible. You can even keep a small lemon in your purse (just in case)! The juice brings out the natural flavor in foods and can replace dressing.
  2. Add color. Choose the fruit or vegetable side over fries or bread. Most fruits and veggies are naturally low in sodium.
  3. Watch for these 10 words on restaurant menus. Foods prepared this way tend to be high in sodium. Foods that are steamed, baked, grilled, poached or roasted may have less sodium. 
  4. Eat smaller portions. When you cut the amount of food you eat, you usually cut the sodium, saturated fat and calories too. Ask if smaller portions are available or share meals. If smaller portions aren’t available, ask for a to-go box when you order and immediately place half the meal in the box to eat later.
  5. Sign a petition to serve kids better. Join the Kids Meals Action Team to help speak-up and ask decision makers to make sure we take the right steps to serve kids better.
  6. Celebrate family meals month by cooking at home. You are more likely to have a healthier meal with more control over portions and the amount of sugar and sodium in the food you prepare at home than ready-to-eat foods in stores or restaurants.
  7. Take Action! Write to CEOs of restaurants (like Chili’s, Cheesecake Factory, and Arby’s) and let them know you will be looking for healthier options on the menu.