Health & Wellness

Nov 9, 2012 11:56 AM by Erin Schermele (erin@krtv.com)

Information is key to eating healthier when dining out

Eating out has become a staple within American culture, but the portion sizes and calorie-count of restaurant meals are often to blame for our packing on excess pounds. Reporter Erin Schermele found a promising trend though... as more and more restaurants cater to a health-conscious crowd.

Penny Paul, a health education specialist in Great Falls, noted, "It's okay to treat yourself once in a while but we as Americans, we treat ourselves all the time."

Paul says the best way to eat healthy when dining is to go into the restaurant prepared.

Many chain restaurants offer nutritional information online; Paul said, "Before you even walk into that restaurant you can already have an idea of what you want to have. Set your battle plan."

But finding that information can be more difficult when it comes to local favorites.

After getting several requests each week, MacKenzie River Pizza has begun the process of collecting nutritional information for each of their menu items.

But it's proved to be a daunting task, according to operations manager Ryan Fuller: "You have multiple product that will come from multiple vendors. Bacon is not bacon across the board. So a bacon that you get from one vendor versus another is going to have different nutritional values based on how that product is produced."

And Fuller says it won't be long before more restaurants are likely tasked with the same requirement: "Nothing's been set in stone in Montana or even nationally yet...but basically restaurant groups that are our size or larger will not only be required to have that nutritional information available, but a portion of that nutritional information will be required to be placed on the menu itself."

But even without the mandate most restaurants will accommodate request from customers.

One example: Taco Treat in Great Falls is now is offering a grilled version of their famous tacos that come in at just 270 calories.

Marlene Wesland, the manager at the Amigo Lounge, said, "It's happening more lately. In years past, I have been here for 15, people didn't seem to be as conscious of that kind of stuff."

But the more the consumers demand it, the more the information will be made available.

Until then, Paul says there are still ways to make healthier choices, such as skipping the bread, sharing your meal, and avoiding anything with the words fried, au gratin, or creamed.

Paul noted, "That's part of the fun of life is going out to eat with your family and friends and try new foods, but again we have to make healthy choices because if you don't its going to cost you down the line."

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