4 healthy alternatives to dining out

4 healthy alternatives to dining out

A new study showed that Americans who regularly eat out, either at fast-food or full-service restaurants, consume more calories and have overall poorer nutrition. The research was published in the journal Public Health Nutrition and involved more than 12,000 adults between the ages of 20 and 64.

The results showed that on days individuals ate at a restaurant, they consumed 4 more grams of saturated fats, 4 more grams of sugar and 300 more milligrams of sodium. While these numbers aren't a major concern once in a while, if you eat out multiple times each week, you're getting more of these nutrients than you need.

"Our study confirms that adults' fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption was associated with higher daily total energy intake and poorer dietary indicators," said Binh Nguyen, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society.

Increased intake of salt and saturated fats are linked to many diseases, including heart attack and obesity. In lieu of dining out, try these quick and easy meals instead:

1. Fresh salad. Visit your local farmer's market and pick up homegrown vegetables for a nutrient-packed dinner. Vegetables contain a variety of important vitamins that support a healthy heart and body. Add shrimp or cooked chicken on top for added protein, but don't go too heavy on the salad dressing, which can contain a lot of calories and fats. 

2. Fajitas. These taco-alternatives are a great way to combine fresh vegetables and protein. Grilled chicken, avocado, bell peppers and onions are a great combination when cooked in the right spices. Throw it all together on a whole-wheat tortilla and you have an easy and weekday meal.

3. Veggie Pasta. Vegetable pasta is a fun alternative to regular spaghetti. Zucchinis, carrots, squash or leeks taste great when sliced and topped with homemade sauce and meatballs. It's a great gluten-free meal packed with nutrients and fiber, and it saves you from the carbohydrate load that comes with regular pasta.

4. Grilled fish. Check your local fish store for deals on fresh seafood, which are a great source of important omega-3 fatty acids. Leave the skin on and put the filets right onto the grill for a savory meal in minutes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least one serving of fish per week, but if you don't eat it enough you can add a fish oil supplement to your diet for an optimal intake of omega-3s.

Essential takeaways

  • Americans who eat out regularly have poorer nutrition and greater risk of disease. 
  • Try a quick, family-friendly meal instead of heading to a restaurant.