Just the facts. From the experts.

Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RD, puts Access Hollywood viewers in the driver's seat with her road rules on healthy eating.

Carolyn O'Neil: 

"One thing bothers me: A lot of time nutritionists will say, in order to eat more healthfully, you should cook more at home and not dine out. Well, that’s like saying if you want to avoid a traffic accident, leave your car in the garage and don’t go anywhere. We need diner’s education just like we need driver’s education. Let’s get the diner's education started!"

First: Map out those menu choices. You want to go online so you can see what’s on the menu before you even get there. And guess what? That burger that you really want may have the same or fewer calories than that big entrée salad you think you’re supposed to get! 

Second: Look both ways. Look around the room and see how big the portions are. If the servings look large, then you know to ask for half of it to be boxed up before it even comes to the table! A lot of people blame restaurants for people being overweight, but let's manage our portions. Also, think about how beautiful the vegetables are - this might be the best place to get the kids introduced to vegetables! Chefs know how to make those gorgeous Brussels sprouts - it could be the gateway vegetable to healthy eating! I would say that when you’re looking both ways, make sure that your serving of vegetables is at least one cup.

Third: Signal your intentions. Telling the server you are 'eating light' may not mean anything to them. Be specific, such as “I want my fish lightly brushed with oil.” Or say, “I don’t want the chef to salt my food - may I do that at the table?” Then you are in control of the sodium. Or simply ask to have lemons with your fish or chicken, or balsamic vinegar or hot sauce! Spice up the food, without the calories, to get ready for bikini season or when you are driving for long distances in the car. Once again, when you are signaling your intentions, say “I want my dressing on the side.” That is an old-fashioned tip, but it really does mean that you have more control and you are essentially the one in the driver's seat.

Fourth: Watch out for road hazards. You know the bowl of the chips that comes out, and certainly the bread, can easily rack up 500 to 600 calories BEFORE you even order your entrée by dipping and doing with the bread and olive oil. So again, you want to watch out for road hazards along the way.

Now I have a beautiful piece of strawberry cake from Atlanta, Georgia. This symbolizes that the servings in restaurants may be larger perhaps, so we have three forks here to indicate this may be something we want to share. As a dietitian, I am saying ENJOY summer specialties! Enjoy strawberry cake. Enjoy regional specialties, the New England clam chowders. Maybe you are going to Florida and you really want fried oysters. Again, you just have to eat in moderation and share! We are going to enjoy the ride because dining out can be nutritious AND delicious, if you are in the driver’s seat!


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