5 Tips for Eating Out from the Man Who Knows More About Americans’ Eating Habits Than Americans


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As the director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, Brian Wansink, Ph.D. is working toward making healthy choices easier for everyone. “Nobody wants to start a diet in a restaurant,” says Wansink. But a few small tweaks make it easier to order healthfully.

Choose a well-lit spot. People eat more when they’re hidden away in dark corners.

And do sit down. Avoid the temptation to eat on the run. A recent study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that women who ate while walking gobbled more calories than those who were seated.

Always start smart. Skip the bread basket, Wansink advises, and make sure the first thing you eat is a fruit or a vegetable to trigger healthful choices for the rest of the meal.

Decode the menu. “Seasoned,” “roasted,” “marinated,” “fresh,” and “broiled” signal healthful dishes. “Buttery,” “creamed,” “crispy,” “smothered,” and “loaded” add up to lots of calories, saturated fat, and sodium.

“Shop” the buffet before you choose. Buffets are an invitation to overeat. Instead, says Wansink, peruse your options, and then grab the smallest plate available for the items you really want. You can always go back for seconds.

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  1. Erika Brady

    I had no idea that people eat more when they are in the dark. I will make sure I pick a sport with light when I go to a restaurant. I like the different words you provided to look for when decoding the menu. I love eating out at restaurants, but never know how to eat healthy while there. I think these are great tips! Thanks!

    October 13, 2016 at 10:27 am
  2. Justin Knox

    Thank you for the help. My wife and I are starting a diet, but don’t want to stop eating at restaurants. I think we need to be sure to start smart, as you suggested. How should that affect the actual meal we order as well?

    August 2, 2016 at 8:08 am
  3. Wade Joel

    Eating pout can be a nice change of pace. I probably eat out too much, but, I usually have a great time. I think I will take your dive and look at all the patients at a buffet and choose the things I like the most.

    June 27, 2016 at 12:02 pm
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  6. Lillian Schaeffer

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that seasoned, roasted, and marinated are signs of a healthy meal. I’m trying to be more conscious about what I eat, but I still would like to go out to eat with my husband occasionally. I’ll definitely try to select more foods with those descriptive words that indicate a more healthy option when I’m ordering at a restaurant. Thanks for the great post!

    March 24, 2016 at 5:49 pm

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