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Which do you think is lighter - a 6-inch Subway tuna sandwich on wheat or a McDonald's hamburger? Even if you picked the hamburger (which is right), I bet you'd be surprised at the differences in nutritional content between the two. The McDonald's hamburger has 260 calories and 9 grams of fat, while the Subway has 419 calories and 21 grams of fat! It takes some good nutritional knowledge to be aware of many 'eating out traps'.

Most people who are trying to eat nutritiously and maintain or lose weight will tell you one of the hardest times to be 'good' is when you eat out at restaurants. It's true - restaurants and fast food joints don't usually cater to health-conscious consumers. Here are some tips for making the most of these 'dangerous' mealtimes!

Just like the Subway tuna sandwich, some of the highest calorie- and fat-content foods at restaurants will contain:
Sour cream
Many meats, such as beef, pepperoni, sausage etc.
Breading (such as most fast food chicken sandwiches), which usually means the food is fried
Guacamole or avocado (although this fat is less harmful than other types)
Salad dressings

Another thing to keep in mind is portion size. It's widely known that portion sizes, especially in the U.S., having grown significantly over the past several years. Just because they serve you a heaping mound of chips or fries with your meal, doesn't mean you have to eat it all! Even better, ask for a substitution of salad, fruit or steamed vegetable INSTEAD of the fried sides.

Here are several suggestions for eating out at different types of restaurants when you want to stick with a nutritious eating style:

Opt for: Veggie toppings, thinner crust, light on the cheese, fewer slices, add salad with lowfat dressing
Watch out for: High-fat meats, olives, extra cheese, cheesebread and wings.

Burger joints
Opt for: Unbreaded chicken sandwiches minus mayo and cheese, plain hamburgers, salads with low-fat or fat-free dressings, frozen yogurt
Watch out for: Large burgers with cheese and mayo, french fries, shakes, breaded chicken and fish sandwiches

Sandwich shops
Opt for: Lean cuts of meat , lots of veggies, vinegar, mustard, pepper, 'baked' potato chips
Watch out for: Cheese, mayo, mayo-based salads, bacon, oil, potato chips

Sit-down restaurants
Opt for: Broiled or grilled fish or chicken, small portions of lean steak, steamed veggies, salad bar (watch out for high-fat toppings), broth-based soups, plain baked potatoes, pasta with tomato/marinara sauce (no meat).
Watch out for: Huge portions, french fries, heavy cream sauces, mass quantities of red meat (24-ounce steaks!), bread and butter or olive oil, high-fat salad dressings, high-fat potato toppings (bacon, sour cream, butter, cheese), breaded and fried entrees and appetizers, cream soups, vegetables cooked in butter, hollandaise sauce, cole slaw, gravy

The more you learn about nutrition, the better choices you'll be able to make and the less 'scary' your meals out will have to be!

Erin Rogers, a work-at-home mom of two, is the founder of, providing practical healthy living resources for busy people. Visit her website (link to to sign up for the FREE newsletter, 'Dinners on the Double' - offering a quick and healthy, no-recipe dinner idea each week. Other available services include quick and healthy recipes, healthy cooking articles, fitness and motivation tips, healthy living web links, and lots more! Erin can be reached via email at [email protected].
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