Eating Out Resources for NAP Challengers
Each week during the challenge, you’ll get new tips, tools, and videos to set you up for success while eating away from home. Learn more about our Cancer Prevention Recommendations and how they support our weekly eating out topics.
Week 1: The 2/3 – 1/3 Plate Principle Away from Home
- At a sit-down restaurant – Check the section on vegetarian entrees first and start with a broth-based soup or salad
- At a fast food restaurant – Look for broth-based or bean/lentil soups or chili and choose a fruit side in place of fried choices like French fries or onion rings
- At outdoor-type events like festivals and fairs – Plan ahead, if possible, and toss an apple or an orange in your bag and ask for extra lettuce and tomatoes on top of your sandwich
Join the members-only NAP Challenge Facebook for more in-depth discussions.
Week 2: Eating Out on the Go
What pushes you to eat away from home? How often do you eat away from home? Eating away from home happens for most of us and we often choose less healthy options like food higher in calories and fat.
- If you have a hectic schedule – Try packing sandwiches, fresh fruit and cut veggies to eat on the go or at your after school activity and keep bottled water or refillable water bottles in the refrigerator ready to grab and take
- If you dislike cooking – Try easy AICR recipes, menus and shopping lists and ask friends and family members what they rely on for their go-to, simple and quick recipes
- Need to grab something quick – Start with a salad with a vinaigrette-style dressing and choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages
Week 3: Filling your plate with color when eating away from home
When eating away from home it can be more difficult to have control of your healthy options.
- Start by going to places that feature fruit and vegetables on the menu like salad-focused restaurants or smoothie bars.
- Do not be afraid to ask, “What vegetarian sides do you have that are not on the menu?” Or “what fruit sides are available?”
- Try new options of fruits and vegetables that are on menus that you have never had.
Week 4: Restaurant Portions
It is easy to overeat without realizing it when eating away from home. Serving sizes at most restaurants tend to be super-sized. Over time, portions have grown and it has distorted our understanding of what a healthy size portion should be.
- First, choose water for your beverage and start the meal with a lettuce salad and vinaigrette dressing on the side or a broth-based soup.
- Second, remember to stick with the 2/3-1/3 Plate Principle. Just because you are away from home, do not exclude plant-based foods.
- Third, eat mindfully throughout the meal. Rate your hunger. Rate your fullness. Do not allow yourself to become overly full.
- Last, remember you can take the leftovers home and enjoy them again! No need to take those few extra bites that might push your fullness level over the edge.
Check out the Portion Distortion Quiz
Week 5: The Intense Calories in Condiments
Condiments are wonderful and help add oomph to our foods. It is satisfying to have a tangy tartar sauce on baked fish or savory ketchup on fries. Whether you like to dunk or slather, change your focus and choose nutrient packed condiments instead of sugar and salt-laden choices.
- Choose relish, salsa and pico de gallo to top a variety of different dishes or sides.
- Spread bean dips or hummus on sandwiches instead of high fat choices.
- Spice dishes up with hot sauces. Most hot sauces are low in calories and add a significant amount of flavor with a very small portion.
Try AICR’s Sauces and Condiment recipes.
Week 6: Finding Whole Grains at Restaurants
Swap your white bread(s), white rice and potato side for a whole grain option will skyrocket your fiber intake. Whole grains provide vitamins, phytochemicals and other cancer protective compounds that lower cancer risk.
- For breakfast out – choose whole wheat or multigrain bread, bagels, English muffin instead of white or sourdough options to go along with your vegetarian omelet or eggs.
- For lunch out – when eating a sandwich, ask for a whole wheat or multigrain bread/bun. Most fast causal and fast foods establishments offer whole grain bread options but you may need to ask for the substitution.
- For dinner out – request brown rice, wild rice, quinoa as a side instead of white rice side dishes. As for a whole wheat pasta choice instead of the standard pasta served. These options are easier to find at sit down restaurants but many fast causal places now offer healthier side substitutions.
Find whole grains at your frequently visited restaurants.
Week 7: Swapping Out Red Meat
If you desire a juicy steak, go for it and enjoy it! There certainly is room in your diet for red meat. The recommendation is to consume 12-18 ounces or less of red meat per week. The recommendation is to save processed meats for special occasions and strive to avoid as much as possible. If you eat out often, try these tips to reduce your red meat intake…
- Order fish, seafood or poultry most often. These options are available at many sit-down restaurants and are often cooked perfectly. Take advantage of the variety and creativity you’ll find at restaurants.
- Choose plant proteins as often as possible. Beans, lentils, quinoa, and soy foods such as tofu and edamame are great substitutes for red meat. These options are delicious and provide many cancer preventative compounds like fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals that meats lack.
- Load two-thirds of your plate with plant-based choices. Increase the nutrient content of sandwiches, wraps and burgers by topping with grilled vegetables, lettuce, and tomatoes. Choose two vegetable sides with steaks and chops instead of fries or loaded potatoes.
Use this red meat portion guide to help you know what 18 ounces of red meat looks like MD Anderson Red Meat Guide
Week 8: Take a break on sodium intake
Ever had too much of a good thing? I’m sure you know when something has too much salt! Sodium is an important mineral for proper fluid balance in the body, transmission of nerve impulses and contraction and relaxation of muscles. Normally, the kidneys manage sodium balance but too much sodium can be taxing on the body. Here are some simple ways to reduce sodium intake when eating out…
- First, do not use the saltshaker. The food you receive will have more sodium than you already need.
- Second, ask if it is possible to have items like poultry, fish or meat seasoned with herbs and less salt or ask for a reduced amount of sauce or have the sauce served on the side.
- Third, ask for steamed vegetables with no sauce or salt and use a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavor.
Check out the High Sodium Shockers Slideshow
Week 9: Better Beverages
”Hello, I’ll let you look over the menu while I grab your drinks. Would you like a coke, lemonade or sweet tea?” Have you heard this before? Servers are trained to specifically list beverages to entice and upcharge. Be strong and keep your beverage option calorie-free and inexpensive – WATER! Ask for lemon, lime or orange slices to add some pizazz to your water. Water is always the healthier choice but if you are looking for something else consider these tips…
- Order a smaller size drink
- Skip the free refills
- Diet drinks are calorie and sugar free but still contain acid that can harm teeth. Enjoy them once in a while.
- Limit alcohol beverages, if you drink them at all, to no more than one standard drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men
Week 10: Pump Up Calcium
Have you ever thought about maximizing your calcium intake even when eating away from home? It probably doesn’t cross your mind much but it is easy to do!
- During breakfast out – Add a low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit to your meal or instead of juice choose a cup of low-fat milk.
- During lunch out – Search the menu for kale, broccoli, bok choy or Chinese cabbage in salads, soups or sides. Or consider enjoying a classic Caesar salad (typically includes anchovies and parmesan cheese – both excellent sources of calcium). Even better when made with kale instead of romaine lettuce!
- During dinner out – Choose vegetarian entrees with tofu, beans or lentils as the protein source or find pasta dishes with added green leafy vegetables and ricotta cheese like a vegetable lasagna.
Week 11: Eating away from home for special gatherings
Special gatherings are often filled with food and drinks. Enjoy these occasions with friends and family members. Here are some helpful hints to keep on track with your healthy eating.
- First, it is okay to be a food snob. Check out the offerings and choose what you will enjoy the most. Love cheesecake but don’t really like chocolate cake? Ignore the foods that don’t appeal to you, that way you aren’t getting overly full eating items that aren’t pleasurable. Enjoy the foods that you have chosen until you are satisfied – not overly full.
- Secondly, don’t skip meals before a party. Going to a party hungry sets you up for overeating. It’s easy to start eating appetizers or drinking alcohol and/or sugar-sweetened beverages and overfill yourself before dinner is served. In addition, you might overindulge as a reward for not eating all day. Eating a little before you attend will help you curb your appetite during the party.
- Third, keep up with physical activity – or bump it up a notch. Don’t let your exercise routine slip out of your schedule during this time of food abundance. Physical activity will help offset excess energy intake. If you feel you are or will eat more than usual, try adding in an extra 10, 20 or 30 minutes of activity that day. We have short exercise videos posted every Tuesday that will help you move more!
Week 12: The Sweet Tooth
Many people enjoy sweet treats but the key is to enjoy them in moderation. Here are some helpful tips for enjoying sweet treats.
- Choose fruit first. Fruit is naturally sweet, which can help satisfy your craving. If a piece of fruit alone isn’t enough, try dipping a banana or strawberry in chocolate or mixing some chocolate bits into ¼ cup of nuts and dried fruit.
- Choose quality over quantity. If you know what sweet treat will satisfy, go for it in a healthy portion size, enjoy it and then move on to a different activity.
- Eat regularly and stay hydrated. Start with water first thing in the morning and strive to drink 8-10 cups of water throughout the day. Eat satisfying meals and snacks throughout the day when hungry. It is easier to overindulge in sweet treats when we are ravished.
Try these AICR sweet recipes!