Consumer Watch: Cutting costs, calories eating fast food

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      You can still eat at you favorite restaurant while spending less and getting healthier (KOKH).

      Whether it's for a special occasion or you're too busy to cook, Americans go out to restaurants, a lot.

      Fewer people are cooking anymore, and the latest data shows that is a fact. The US Census Bureau started tracking this stuff in the 90s.

      It shows that there has been a steady rise in food spending over the last decade, but in 2015, an historic change, Americans spent more eating out than on groceries, and this year the gap is widening. That means many Americans are spending increased wages on eating out.

      "If you make the decision to go and eat out anyway, you understand that it is pretty expensive," says Greg Farris, a nutrition expert and founder of MyoBrain Nutrition.

      Farris believes in flexible dieting which allows people to have more varied food choices while losing or maintaining their weight. He says he understands why more people are eating out at restaurants because people are busy. If you are worried about losing weight, what he has to say will surprise you.

      "You can go out and eat. You can have good tasting food, and still lose weight, gain muscle, or whatever you are trying to do," says Farris.

      It's possible, but you have to commit to not go off the deep end. Farris says if you only go out to eat twice or three times a week, you can basically have whatever you want, but you'd have to supplement that with solid healthy eating the rest of the time. If you're the type to eat out more often than that, then your decisions matter more.

      "If you are eating out like every day, it is probably worth the extra few dollars to get the leaner steak and potatoes as opposed as something like the pulled pork which is really high fat,” says Farris.

      A single American restaurant portion also tends to be huge, like enough for two people, so another money saver is to share an entree with someone, or have the server pack up half, and you can eat it for another meal.

      Nutrition experts also recommend something called the meal prep day. Cook and pack all your lunches for the week on a Sunday. That way you can just grab and go in the morning. That is the most tried and true money saver for people with fast paced lives.