I won’t lie: I love eating out more than cooking food for myself. Eating out is a great way to socialize with others and try new foods. But it can be tough making the healthy choice at most restaurants.
And let’s not forget about the many courses a fine dining restaurant includes in the eating experience — appetizers, soup or salad, entrée, dessert, and drinks all to be consumed in one night.
This article will help you navigate making the healthy choice at restaurants, including tips for eating at many different types of restaurants (fast food, buffet, sit-down) so that you can feel confident and enjoy yourself without all the guilt!
1. With any restaurant, do your research. The first step to making the healthy choice at restaurants is to be prepared to deal with what is offered on the menu. Look up the menu online beforehand so you can understand what options are offered. Many restaurants have nutrition information online so you can see which meals are lowest in calories, fat, and sodium. That way, when the waiter asks for your order, you won’t be tempted by all that is on the menu and be able to select the meal that fits your goals.
2. At fast food restaurants, watch the wording. Choose grilled or baked options over fried, breaded, stuffed, double, or crispy. The latter will be much higher in calories, saturated fat, and sodium, which in excess negates any weight loss or health benefits. Similarly, refrain from “supersizing” a meal. Don’t assume salads are automatically healthy. Ask for dressing on the side; same with condiments.
3. Eat mindfully at buffets. The simplef act of having food easily accessible leads many people to overeat. Buffets are the place where mindful eating is most challenged. Mindful eating is being able to tune into your hunger cues as you select foods that will satisfy you in the moment, while also taking nutrition into consideration. When there is a plethora of foods in sight, it can be easy to ignore hunger signals and choose foods that you may not even want but feel the need the eat because they are right in front of you. At buffets, create a balanced plate of lean proteins, healthy fats, a complex carbohydrate, and lots of fruits and veggies. Wait 10 minutes to let your food digest before going back for more. You probably won’t be hungry.
4. Share appetizers, desserts, and bread at sit-down restaurants. Appetizers, desserts, and bread are staples found at fine dining and sit-down restaurants. Don’t worry, you can still enjoy these. What matters is the portions. Take a few bites of each or a small serving and pass them on to the next person. You can even move these dishes out away from you, so they are not as tempting if you find you really don’t want to eat them. Remember, these foods can be enjoyed in moderation. But if you eat out often, consider skipping on these additions and saving them for more special occasions.
5. Choose vegetables as your side dish. We all could use some more veggies in our life. Opt for grilled, sauteed, steamed, or baked vegetables instead of fries, mashed potatoes, or pasta as a side to your main meal. This is a great way to ensure you get some veggies in your diet even when eating out. But be wary of heavy sauces or cheese that may come with the vegetables.
6. If drinking alcohol, make that your “dessert.” If you know me, you know I love my alcoholic beverages (in moderation of course). Alcohol can fit as part of a healthy diet if you stick to the recommendations of one drink per day for women and two drinks for men. If choosing an alcoholic beverage at a restaurant, let that be your “dessert.” Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, which can definitely add up. Dessert and alcohol together can make you consume more calories than you need at one mealtime. Decide which you are most in the mood for and make that selection.
7. Choose water. Water is the best thing you can drink at restaurants. Save your calories for the food by skipping out on soft drinks like soda, lemonade, sweet tea, or fruit punch. These drinks contain more added sugars than you can imagine, which contributes to weight gain and heart disease.
Give these tips a try the next time you eat at a restaurant. You’ll find it can be easier than you thought to make the healthy choice when eating out.
For more advice about healthy diet and lifestyle choices, visit Kelly’s Choice Nutritional Company.
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