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posted: 2/4/2013 6:00 AM

Your health: A plan for dining out

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  • Carefully picking and choosing healthy items from a menu can make eating out a more pleasurable experience.

    Carefully picking and choosing healthy items from a menu can make eating out a more pleasurable experience.


Eating on the go

Heart-healthy eating is easier to do in your own kitchen -- where you have full control over the menu, ingredients and how you prepare the meal -- than it is when someone else is doing the cooking.

But with these seven tips, you can stay within your eating plan, even when dining out, says Harvard Medical School.

Curb portions. For two people, consider ordering one salad, one appetizer and one entree. When ordering individual meals, set aside some of what is on your plate to bring home for lunch or another dinner.

Resist refined carbohydrates. Just as you would at home, go for whole grains and limit white bread, white rice and other highly processed starches.

Make smart, colorful choices. Load your plate with plenty of colorful vegetables, fruits and small amounts of lean protein. Skip the creamy and ranch dressings. Low-fat and fat-free dressings often contain a lot of sugar, so use healthy oils with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice instead.

Choose dishes that are grilled, roasted, steamed or sautéed. This is an easy way to cut down on calories and avoid heart-unfriendly trans fats.

Ask for healthier side dishes. Don't be afraid to request a salad, vegetables or fruit instead of starchy side dishes.

Take the opportunity to enjoy fish. When you eat out, take advantage of having an expert chef doing the cooking and order fish or seafood.

Share desserts. If you decide to have dessert, share it with your dining companion(s).

Weight-loss math

The pleasure of eating a candy bar lasts but a few minutes. Burning off the calories it delivers can take nearly three-quarters of an hour, according to Harvard Medical School.

To lose 1 pound by exercising, you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories. A better strategy for weight loss involves a two-pronged approach: exercising and cutting calories.

Although exercise by itself isn't the fast track to weight loss, it does offer important benefits beyond canceling out calories. It slightly increases the rate at which you burn calories even when you're not working out.

Start with this number: 3,500. That's how many calories are stored in a pound of body fat. With that number you can tally up how much weight you can lose through activity, cutting calories or both.

Walking or jogging uses roughly 100 calories per mile. So you'd lose a pound for every 35 miles you walk -- provided you keep food intake and other activities constant.

If you walk briskly (at a pace of 4 mph) for 30 minutes on five out of seven days, you'll log 10 miles a week. That means it would take 3½ weeks to lose 1 pound if the number of calories you consume stays the same.

If you alter your diet and cut back by 250 calories a day (½ cup of ice cream or two sugar-sweetened sodas), you'd lose a pound in two weeks.

By eating 250 fewer calories and walking for 30 minutes a day, it would take just over a week to lose 1 pound. Reducing calorie intake even more and exercising more would further speed the process.

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