Incorporating Away–From–Home Food into a healthy eating plan is essential for your own well-being. It does require some effort on your part, but this little effort will keep you slim and smiling for a long time.
In light of the growing proportion of meals consumed outside of the home and the potential influence of these foods on bad energy intake, it is important to consider whether away-from-home foods contribute to overweight and obesity. A variety of different types of evidence support this hypothesis. An ecological study reported by Maddock, found that states with higher levels of obesity had more quick-service restaurants per person.
While these were aggregate correlational data, they are supported by findings from other types of studies. Two cross-sectional studies have used 1994–1996 CSFII data to explore relationships between away-from-home food and self-reported body weight.
Bowman and Vinyard found that adults who reported eating quick-service food on at least one survey day had higher mean body mass index (BMI) values than those who did not eat quick-service food on either survey day. When examining quick-service as well as other types of eating establishments, Binkley et al., also found that eating away-from-home food was related to obesity.
With approximately 1/3 of daily calorie consumption in the United States coming from away-from-home foods it is important to consider how individuals can fit these items into a healthy eating plan. Here, we present some useful tips to make this happen:
- Tailor away-from-home meals to make them as healthful as possible.
- Patronize establishments that offer a variety of food choices and are willing to make substitutions or changes.
- Choose lower-sugar sauces and condiments. For example, foods with butter and cream sauce or a broth or mustard sauce are good choices.
- Select a low-carb soup or salad as an appetizer. Butter or olive oil is a great addition here.
- Use nutrition information to guide food choices. Many restaurants have nutrition information available on-site or on websites. Patrons can examine this information before ordering to make the best food choices.
- Modify a menu item to make it a healthier option. For example, ask for a main dish salad to be served with grilled or fried chicken, choose a high fat/low carb dressing, and order the dish without croutons and instead, some extra cheese.
- Order a vegetarian meal that includes high protein legumes and healthy fat..
- Substitute colorful vegetables for other side dishes. Have the entrée be accompanied by a healthfully-prepared salad, fruit, or fried vegetables. Just make sure you do not mix vegetables and fruit in the same meal.
- Select fresh fruit for dessert.
- When at a buffet, make sure that a substantial portion of the plate is covered by vegetables and fatty meat cuts.
- Order a half-portion.
- Share a meal with a companion.
- Take half or more of the meal home. Having a portion of a meal boxed up before eating may reduce the temptation to overindulge.
- Focus on food quality not quantity. Instead of placing value on large food portions, enjoy smaller portions of high quality food.
- Serve as a good role model for children by practicing healthy eating habits.
- Choose kid-friendly restaurants that offer a variety of healthful items children will enjoy.
- When ordering a meal for a child: Ask about alternative to French fries and order milk instead of a shake.
- Pack healthy snacks to reduce the impulse visit to the vending machine.
- When cooking a healthful dinner at home, prepare extra food that can be taken for lunch or frozen for a busy day.
- When traveling, bring along nutritious foods that will not spoil, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, meat cuts or pack a cooler with items such as no-sugar yogurt.
- The keystone forum on away-from-home foods: opportunities forpreventing wight gain and obesity. Washington, DC: The Keystone Center, May 2006.
- Lin B-H, Frazao E, Guthrie J. Away-from-home foods increasingly important to quality of American diet. Economic Research Service/USDA. Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 749, 1999.
- Putnam J, Allshouse J. Food consumption, prices, and expenditures. Statistical bulletin 928: US Department of Argiculture, Economic Research Service, 1996.
- Ledikwe JH, Ello-Martin JA, Rolls BJ. Portion sizes and the obesity epidemic. J Nutr 2005;135:905–909.
- Prentice AM, Jebb SA. Fast foods, energy density and obesity: a possible mechanistic link. Obesity Reviews 2003;4:187–194.
- Bell EA, Castellanos VH, Pelkman CL, Thorwart ML, Rolls BJ. Energy density of foods affects energy intake in normal-weight women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1998;67:412–420.
- Stubbs RJ, Whybrow S. Energy density, diet composition and palatability: influences on overall food energy intake in humans. Physiol Behav 2004;81:755–764.
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