Do you struggle to maintain healthy eating habits when dining out? Restaurant menus are full of tempting items, and it’s easy to order a dish that’s high in sodium, sugar, and calories, despite your good intentions.
According to a 2016 study from the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 92% of meals from 120 restaurants served portion sizes that exceeded calories recommended for one meal. Some single meals even exceeded the daily calorie recommendations!
Enjoying a night out doesn’t need to sabotage your health and fitness goals. Follow these tips and you’ll eat right while eating out.
Choose the restaurant
Many restaurants have their menus online, so you can choose one with a variety of healthy options. Choose your meal ahead of time and stick with your plan.
Ask to be seated away from the kitchen
Seeing the different dishes coming out of the kitchen can sway you into changing your order, especially when you’re hungry. If you’re seated near the kitchen, ask to move to a table where you won’t be tempted into an order you’ll regret.
Don’t skip meals
You may think skipping lunch or breakfast will “save” you some calories. Instead, you will end up hungrier and overeating later in the day. Eat healthy meals and snacks to avoid eating more than you planned on.
Mind your portions
Restaurant servings are generally much larger than what you would eat at home. A proper serving of meat is roughly the size of a deck of cards. Were you served a pile of rice or softball sized potato? Take half of it home to enjoy another day.
Order an appetizer as your meal
Do you find it hard to stop eating once you start? Choose an appetizer instead of an entrée. They are smaller than a full meal and can fill you up just right, especially when paired with a salad or vegetable based soup.
Pick a healthy starter
Quell hunger with a healthy starter. Green salads, grilled shrimp, grilled vegetables, and broth based soup are all good examples. Watch out for salads loaded with bacon, cheese, croutons, and then coated in a creamy dressing. Opt for mixed greens and veggies with an oil based dressing on the side.
Ask for sauces, dressings, and butter on the side
Many dishes tend to be swimming in caloric sauces and dressings. Ask for yours on the side and use them sparingly.
Engage your server
You server is there to help explain the menu. Ask how meals are prepared and see if there are ways to make it healthier. You can choose grilled chicken rather than fried or ask to double the vegetables instead of rice or potatoes.
Know key cooking terms
Grilled, steamed, and broiled are generally cooked with less oil and salt. Breaded, smothered, fried, loaded, sautéed, alfredo, and creamy are all dishes that are heavy on the calories. Choose the lighter options.
Limit empty calories
Alcohol and soft drinks add calories and sugar without any nutrition. Opt for water with a squeeze of lime or lemon or choose unsweetened iced tea. If you plan have an alcoholic drink, stick to a glass of wine or beer. If you truly want a cocktail, stay away from sugary mixers and opt for a drink mixed with club soda and a squeeze of lime or splash of fruit juice. Always sip water between drinks!
Fish is generally a great option as long as it’s not fried or sautéed. For a heart healthy option, ask for your seafood to be broiled with just a brush of olive oil.
Beware of hidden sodium
Dishes that rely on sauces, broth, red sauce or cheese tend to be high in sodium. If you want to control your salt intake, stick to foods like grilled meats, vegetables and baked potatoes. Even some salad toppings, such as olives, cheese, and croutons are high in salt, so eat those sparingly.
Having a game plan before you arrive at the restaurant allows you to enjoy a satisfying, guilt-free meal.