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How to eat healthier at a bar

Follow these tips to avoid the calories, salt and fat of bar food.

Alison Johnson

Newport News Daily Press

October 26, 2010

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With football season in full swing, many fans will head to bars for games, drinks and eats. Although most bar food is packed with fat, salt and calories, dietitians say these tips can help:

Request a change in cooking style. "It might cost a buck more, but ask if anything that's on the bar list can be grilled or steamed instead of fried," recommends Lynn Earle, a registered dietitian based in Norfolk, Va.

Choose the right pizza crust. Go for thin crust over deep dish and especially the worst offender, cheese-stuffed crust. For toppings, go with light cheese and vegetables.

Check on popcorn oil. Ideally, popcorn is air-popped or made on site with canola oil. Prepackaged brands often are full of unhealthy fats. If you're too embarrassed to ask, stick with pretzels, a hot pretzel with mustard or a handful or two of peanuts.

Don't assume vegetables are healthy. "Tempura," for example, means dipped in batter and deep-fried. "Steamed or raw veggies would be a better choice," Earle says.

Don't load up hamburgers. A burger can be a relatively healthy pick, especially if it's made from lean ground beef and grilled, not fried. Leave off toppings such as bacon and cheese and substitute mustard for mayonnaise. Same goes for hot dogs.

Embrace salsa. It has no fat and is made from fruits and vegetables. Use it as a topping for tortilla chips — but go light on those chips — baked potatoes and burgers instead of creamy dips and sauces.

Look past the bar menu. If the bar is part of a restaurant, you probably can order something healthy off the main menu, such as a grilled chicken salad or sandwich.