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Airport Advice continued...

If you're on one of the increasingly rare flights that serves food, order a vegetarian meal, says NYU nutritionist Samantha Heller. You can also call ahead of time and advise the airline of any special dietary needs you have.

Eating out in restaurants presents its own challenges, says Steinback, but they, too, can be managed. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ask for substitutions. Choose salad, fruit, rice, or a baked potato instead of chips, fries, or coleslaw.
  • Pay attention to what you choose on the salad bar. A salad soaked in oily or creamy dressing can be more fattening than a Big Mac and fries.
  • Order half-portions, or share an entrée with someone else at your table.
  • Eat only what tastes great. Don't waste calories on foods you can live without.
  • Order a large side dish and a small entrée, or several healthy-choice appetizers instead of an entrée.
  • Skip anything called "smothered," "crispy," crusted," or "sautéed."
  • Don't order dessert right after finishing your meal. If you wait a few minutes, you may find you're not as hungry for it as you thought.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

What do you do if you're visiting friends or family? There are ways to negotiate meals -- even holiday meals -- when you're in someone else's home, says Samantha Heller.

It's always a good idea to (gently) remind the hosts of your dietary needs. If possible, offer to prepare a dish yourself so you have control over at least one item on the menu.

If that's not possible, pay close attention to the food choices you make, and watch your portions.

At a holiday dinner, for example, eat veggies or shrimp cocktail for hors d'oeuvres and leave the cheese cubes or mini-quiches alone. Choose white-meat turkey and skip the skin (even if it is the best part!). Sample the stuffing if you want -- the operative word being "sample." And don't necessarily skip the pumpkin pie. Pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A and is good for you; the whipped cream and the crust are not. So eat a sliver of the filling and leave the rest on your plate.

"And if you must self-medicate to deal with all those relatives," Heller says (we all know what she's talking about, don't we?), choose a light beer or a wine spritzer instead of the eggnog or something harder.

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