Heart of New Ulm Resolve to make healthier choices when dining out in the New Year!

With the new year fast approaching, many people will soon be making resolutions related to their health. If you’re one of the many people around town who will vow to eat healthier in the new year, a great place to start is by making small, realistic changes when you dine out.

That’s because eating out in restaurants can be full of temptations. Research shows that when people eat out, they eat more calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. It also shows that the greater the variety of food offered, the more people eat.

In 2020, the Heart of New Ulm’s Food Environment Action Team will be launching a revamped restaurant program that will partner with many local restaurants and eating establishments in New Ulm to make it easier to make healthier choices when you dine out. All participating restaurants will be committed to serving the same great-tasting food while offering healthier options that may include smaller portion sizes, more fruits and vegetables, whole grain choices and spreads and dressings on the side. Watch for more details coming early next year!

In the meantime, the Heart of New Ulm offers some simple tips for making healthier choices at restaurants to help both your waistline and your heart:

Have a plan. Eat a light dinner if you ate a big lunch that day. Or, if you know ahead of time that you’re going to a restaurant, plan to have lighter meals during the day. Familiarize yourself with menu terms and cooking basics to make ordering easier, especially if you have special dietary needs.

Think ahead. Consider meal options at different restaurants and look for places with a wide range of menu items. Check online menus, if available, for nutrition information ahead of time. You will feel more at ease with your choice and be less likely to overindulge if you review the menu ahead of time.

Skip pre-meal baskets of bread or chips.

Start with a broth-based soup or salad. You’ll satisfy your hunger more quickly and eat fewer calories.

Ask for substitutions. In place of typical sides like french fries or mayonnaise-based salads, ask for options such as unsweetened fruits, a salad without dressing or non-fried veggies. In addition to having more nutrients, these choices have more fiber, which will fill you up so that you eat less food overall.

Ask for sauces, gravies and salad dressings on the side. Ideally, choose vinaigrette dressing in place of mayonnaise-based dressing.

Choose whole grains like whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice or whole wheat pizza crust.

Downsize your plate. Choose a half-portion entrée and a mini dessert if you choose to eat dessert.

Split your favorite restaurant items with a friend or immediately request a to-go container to take half home. Split a salad and entrée, and both of you will have a more balanced plate.

Avoid fried, sautéed and breaded foods. Order steamed, baked, grilled, boiled, poached or roasted dishes.

Choose water instead of a sugar-sweetened beverage. With the exception of milk and tomato juice, people don’t recognize these added beverage calories by compensating and eating less. That means calories from beverages are added calories. If you can’t make the leap, ask the server to alternate water with your preferred beverage.

Watch out for sodium. Dishes with the following words in the name often mean they are high in sodium — pickled, marinated, smoked, barbequed, smothered (in sauce), teriyaki, soy sauce, broth, miso, gravy, bacon, and of course, salted or salty.

Slow down and enjoy your food and the table conversation. Be mindful of the smell, taste and texture of the foods you’re eating.

Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry instead of eating until you’re full. After your meal, you’ll be ready for action instead of a nap!

Buffet tips:

Choose the smallest plate available; a salad plate works great. You’ll load your plate with less food and naturally eat less.

Try to select three to four items and really enjoy those, rather than eating a little bit of everything. You’ll likely eat fewer calories, as typically the more foods you have available to you, the more you will eat.

Set a limit on the number of times you’ll go through the line. You’ll naturally be passing on second helpings of extra calories.

More about Heart of New Ulm

The Heart of New Ulm (HONU) project aims to improve the health, well-being and quality of life of all New Ulm-area residents through education, available resources, initiatives and partnerships that empower people of all ages to take responsibility for their own health in a supportive environment. 

New Ulm Medical Center Foundation is the primary funder of the Heart of New Ulm (HONU) for 2019, 2020 and 2021, with additional funding provided by small grants. HONU leadership continues its work to develop a long-term funding plan and more than 80 community volunteers representing 35 organizations serve on 10 action teams, including the Food Environment Action Team. This team continues working to launch a revamped restaurant program that makes it easier for you to make healthier choices at New Ulm eating establishments.

For more information about HONU, visit heartofnewulm.com.


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