The best way to regulate diet and salt intake is through mindfully preparing your own meals. But at some point you will eventually have meals outside the home. Doing so doesn’t always entail blowing a diet or invoking a cheat day.

For people who suffer from hypertension or heart disease and need to watch their salt consumption, there’s really no such thing as a cheat day. When dining out, keep a few of these things in mind to ensure the salt you consume is at a minimum:

• Ask for your food to be prepared without added salt.

• Be aware of the ingredients in what you order. Foods that are smoked, cured, pickled or contain soy sauce or broth will be higher in salt.

• Don’t use the salt shaker.

• Limit condiments, as they tend to be high in sodium.

• Avoid appetizers or choose ones that are vegetable- or fruit-based.

• Choose water as your beverage.

• When ordering a salad, get the dressing on the side so you control the portion.

• Try to only eat half your dinner portion or, if possible, order a lunch portion. Dinner portions at restaurants can be large and lead to overeating.

• Try to avoid foods that are deep-fried or battered.

• Choose healthier side dishes like steamed broccoli or a baked potato.

Healthy choices

When dining out there are certain foods to avoid or choose over others. Most places offer healthier options on their menus, even fast food restaurants. Here are a few of foods to avoid and healthy alternatives for some staples:

• Hold the cheese, bacon and cream sauces.

• Choose a non-breaded chicken breast or plain beef patty over a deep-fried fish or chicken patty.

• Avoid condiments and pickles.

• Replace fries or chips with a side salad or fruit cup.

• At a salad bar, make fresh vegetables the bulk of your plate. Choose vinegar and oil or lemon juice as your dressing. Avoid high-sodium toppings like bacon bits, croutons, pickles, processed meats and cheeses.

• Instead of a Danish, try a whole wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese or a whole-grain muffin.