Lower portions, less sodium, sugar and cholesterol, no trans fat and more “healthy stuff” is the trend when looking at the menus whether you go to McDonald’s or Outback. From the First Lady to the American Dietitian Association, the push has been to make accessible to everyone fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein on-the-go so there’s no excuse for not eating clean.

What do the reports show? What are the dietary habits that American still face when eating away from home? And even more importantly, what can we do to overcome the not-so-healthy trends?

The USDA’s Economic Research Service recently published its report: “The Impact of Food Away from Home on Adult Diet Quality” by Shelly McGuire of from Washington State University. The problems presented in the study affect equally men and women, dieters or not, healthy weight and overweigh individuals, as published in The Advances in Nutrition International Review Journal.

Calories on demand

By choice or not, most people have to face eating away from home at least once a week. This report shows that more calories are consumed and less produce, whole grain and dairy intake we have when dining out.

Eating away from home was associated to a 134-K calorie increase in daily energy intake.  The extra calories varies according to the meals, thus lunches were the higher with 158, followed by dinners 144 and breakfast 74.

When people eat out they tend to have less produce, dairy and whole grain food overall. For instance, when people had dinner away from home, reduced the fruit consumption by 31.5 percent over the day. Men tend to have less whole grain food sources when eating out while women have less fruits and vegetable intake.

Painless changes

Lauren O’Connor, MS, RD,  suggests these tips when eating out:

Learn to gauge your intake. For instance practice at home measuring 1/2 cup (carb) and 3 oz serving sizes (protein) using a measuring cup, your fist or other serving size visual adis such as a deck of cards for 3 oz of meat.

Focus on conversation and enjoying your food (this means eating slowly, chewing fully, allowing yourself to discover the flavors and textures) versus chewing down and/or nibbling to excess.

Ask for a broth base soup as an appetizer to avoid falling over the bread basket. If you go for the bread, put aside what you’ll eat and do it without the butter at least.

Never mind asking for less oil and butter in your food. Restaurants usually put a lot already, so ask them to keep it minimal. You’ll still enjoy it while cutting fat and calories.

Learn to enjoy your salads with less dressing. And ask for dressing on the side when ordering from restaurants so you can either dip minimally. Choose vinaigrettes over creamy dressings. Or use a little olive oil with a squeeze of lemon.

Substitute high fat cheese for less fatty ones such as mozzarella, cottage, feta or if you go for the high fat ones, enjoy the flavor by just putting a little bit on your salad.

Keep the nuts and dried fruit as snacks where you can enjoy them better and have more portion control. When they get thrown out in salads, usually you don’t taste them but they add a lot of calories without noticing.

Avoid (or at least limit) these high-sodium foods: Smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, foods prepared with bacon, cold cuts, ham, frankfurters, sausage, sardines, caviar and anchovies and regular processed cheeses.

There are simply things that can add a lot to your diet without the calories and losing the flavor. At the same, time you can power up the produce, diary and whole grain intake:

Substitute anything “white” for whole grain to add more fiber and keep appetite in control such as white potato for sweet potato, white bread for whole wheat bread.

Substitute rice or pasta for beans and/or quinoa which will provide not only more fiber but also protein.

Substitute full fat milk for 2 percent or fat free. Likewise, when going for soda or beers go light or even better enjoy fresh tea with no sugar added. Don’t waste calories on beverages.

Make sure that you always order some type of vegetables but beware to stay away from oil, butter and creamy dressings.

Switch the order: Whenever you can have an apple or a fruit, have it first so that way you not just keep hunger in control when the food arrives but also make sure that you eat it. Have you seen so many apples left at Panera Bread?

If you know that you’ll have a meal away from home, make sure that what you eat at home has some type of produce, dairy and/or whole grain to make sure that you meet your daily quota.

Make a habit to snack on fruit, veggies and/or skim dairy.

Follow these effortless tips or “at least focus on eating less, chewing slowing and savoring each bite, by doing so you will more likely register when you are full. Even if you are still tempted to enjoy that Alfredo sauce, you can eat less of it and feel satisfied because you aren’t just packing it in. Gradually over time you can work on expanding your palate toward healthier options,” says O’Connor.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning, coach and master trainer who is an adjunct professor at Florida International University.  Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health  tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

Follow us on twitter.com/foxnewslatino
Like us at facebook.com/foxnewslatino