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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Kary Woodruff is a dietitian at Intermountain Healthcare's Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray. Photo taken on Thursday, March 8, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — People tend to make better food choices and eat more balanced meals when they eat at home. It's a luxury that is hard to come by for all three meals of the day, says Intermountain Healthcare dietitian Kary Woodruff.

"It's OK to enjoy food and eating out. We just need to look for healthier options," she said.

Woodruff, who works at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray, along with LDS Hospital dietitian Erin Meyer, will be featured on Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline, where they will take questions about nutrition and eating to lose weight. From 10 a.m. until noon, people can call 1-800-925-8177 or post questions on the Deseret News Facebook page, www.facebook.com/desnews.

The dietitian, who admits to eating out at least once a week, suggests checking menus online beforehand, to determine which restaurants offer heart-healthy or low-calorie options. Healthier options often include words like baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, steamed and roasted.

Description words that often sound more appetizing but should be avoided are fried, buttered, creamed, crispy and breaded, Woodruff said. She recommends that lunch, which is the meal most people don't adequately prepare for, contain between 400 and 500 calories.

Other tips include sharing an appetizer or dessert, ordering an appetizer as an entree, or sharing an entree with someone to cut back on calories consumed. Restaurant meals, Woodruff said, are often two to three times bigger than a portion size that's healthy. Calories can also be saved if restaurant patrons will ask the staff to wrap half the meal for take-out, before it is brought to the table.

And salads aren't always the answer.

"Salads sometimes come with candied nuts and high-calorie salad dressing. They can be worse for you than an entree like a sandwich or grilled chicken breast," Woodruff said, adding that a typical Caesar salad can have as many as 1,000 calories. She suggests getting dressing on the side and choosing oil- or vinegar-based condiments, as well as grilled meats as topping.

"Salads can be healthy, it's just a matter of choosing them correctly," she said. "It's OK to make special requests and ask for modifications. Most restaurants are OK with that."

New legislation that is just starting to take effect requires eateries with more than 20 locations to disclose the number of calories contained in each offering. Public backlash has been somewhat negative, as people believe it takes the enjoyment out of eating out.

Woodruff encourages people to enjoy the food, but to use the extra information "as a tool to make better decisions."

Packing a lunch at home, she said, is almost always better than eating out. It can not only cut down on calories, but can save more than $1,000 annually, according to a survey by Eating Well magazine.

And it's not the end of the world if, for one meal, an individual overindulges.

"There are 3,500 calories in one pound, so eating a rare, 2,000-calorie meal doesn't usually cause long-term damage," Woodruff said. "It's more important to set healthy habits for ourselves and learn to eat right most of the time, not letting ourselves slip into harmful bad habits."

Saturday: Big misconceptions about weight loss

Hotline Saturday

The Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline will focus on nutrition and eating right to lose weight. From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, local dietitians Kary Woodruff and Erin Meyer will answer questions from the public. Call 1-800-925-8177, toll-free, or post questions during that time on the Deseret News Facebook page and they will do their best to answer them.