Dining outside the home: 4 simple ways to eat healthier and save money

It's no secret: regularly dining out can take a toll on both your wallet and your waistline. When the mood to eat out strikes, follow these four tips—they'll help you eat healthier, save money and enjoy your meal guilt-free!

Dining outside the home: 4 simple ways to eat healthier and save money

1. Keep your coffee order simple

  • That pricey coffeehouse wants you to order your brew in as fancy a form as possible. Not only does this drive up the tab for each visit, but it also stacks on hundreds of calories—from the whole milk, whipped cream, sugar and syrups.
  • A regular cuppa joe made from good coffee beans and with a dash of skim milk is heaven in itself.  Protect your wallet and your arteries by keeping things simple.

2. Give gelato a try

Move over, Ben & Jerry.

  • Gelato is an Italian ice cream that tastes great even though it isn't loaded with fat. Gelato contains four to eight percent butterfat versus 10 to 18 percent for regular ice cream.
  • Cafés that specialize in gelato are popping up all over North America. Jan Horsfall, founder and president of Gelazzi, a gelato café in Denver, Colorado, makes his gelato fresh every day and says the quality of his extracts, cream and eggs, makes his gelato rich and creamy. He travels to Italy several times a year to obtain the extracts. He also pairs his gelato with various liqueurs to make interesting gelato cocktails.
  • If there isn't a gelato café near you and you want to try making your own, do a web search for "gelato" and you'll find plenty of help.

3. Go when a restaurant has a downtime

Most restaurants go out of their way to attract customers at times when business is slow. Take advantage of these opportunities and you can eat for up to 25 percent less than when a restaurant is busy and the prices are at their highest. You can expect service to be much better, too.

Here are some examples:

  • Any day of the year, early evening will usually produce "early bird specials" in restaurants.
  • Lunchtime menus often offer the same dishes as in the evening, but for a sizable discount. You can also get a  "businessman's special" in many restaurants.
  • If you live in an area that draws tourists, the off-season drives many nearly deserted restaurants to offer specials to attract locals.
  • Restaurants that have just opened often offer lower prices to attract customers, so keep an eye out for promising new establishments.

4. When travelling, you can control food costs

  • Travel planners, local booster organizations and food outlets of all kinds would like you to have  all of your meals in restaurants when you're visiting. However, you can extend your travel budget by having a few picnics instead.
  • A trip to the local markets can provide you with healthier and cheaper food, as well as an adventure in itself. Buy fresh food, pack it in a prepared bag or sack and eat it at some lovely spot, such as a city park.
  • Additionally, when traveling: when you do want to dine in a fine restaurant, if you eat your big meal at noon, you can do so more cheaply.

Indulging once in a while is great, but as with anything, moderation is key.  Keeping track of what you eat and how much you spend will help you maintain great health—both physical and financial health!

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