Fifty-eight percent of Americans eat at least one restaurant meal each week, and many families are dining out more than once a week. Add to these sit-down restaurant meals take-out meals and food grabbed on the go from quick-stop markets and other businesses, and Americans are, on average, eating more than four meals a week that are prepared away from home. While meals out are a fun treat, and today’s busy schedules mean that we often opt for restaurant food over home-cooked meals, it is important to consider the impact on your health of dining out.

According to a recent study, a meal at a sit-down restaurant averages 1,128 calories (56 percent of the average daily 2,000-calorie recommendation), 151 percent of the amount of sodium an adult should consume in a single day, 89 percent of the daily value for fat, 83 percent of the daily value for saturated and trans fat and 60 percent of the daily value for cholesterol.3 As this particular study’s title notes, that’s almost a full day’s worth of calories, fats and sodium in one sitting!

Lauren Clanet, RD, LDN, Clinical Oncology Dietitian at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) in Philadelphia, PA, says that the high calories, fat and sodium are the result of a combination of factors.

“Restaurant meals are often prepared using more oils, fats and sodium than we may use when cooking at home and can be very rich.” And, she adds, “Portion sizes at restaurants are often much larger than we usually consume at home, and we are much more likely to consume more food when we have a large amount on our plates.”

Add to the preparation and portion size the sheer number of tasty sweet treats just an order away, Clanet says, and calories and fat skyrocket.

The end result: Meals out might taste great but can quickly derail healthy eating habits and leave us overserved and undernourished.

The good news: According to Clanet, with some planning and mindful choices we can still enjoy restaurant dining without throwing out all of our dietary good intentions. Here she offers her top tips for decoding a menu to find the selections that will be both delicious and nutritious, allowing you to make the most of time spent away from the kitchen.

This article is repurposed from Cancer Fighters Thrive®,