Going out to eat doesn’t have to sabotage your healthy diet. You’ve worked hard all week, and earned an evening to ease the “diet reins” a bit! Here’s some easy rules to follow to help you stay on track.
1. Plan Ahead
Choose your restaurant wisely. Avoid spots with multi-course meals, oversized portions, and all-you-can-eat buffets. Look for a place that offers a variety of plated options. Most restaurants publish their menus online (sometimes with nutrition facts) so you can walk in with a plan.
2. Get a Healthy Start
Don’t want until you’re starving to eat out. Have a healthy snack 1-2 hours before your reservation time to avoid over-eating or selecting unhealthy appetizer and meal. A handful of almonds, a cup of Greek yogurt, an apple, or a few tablespoons of Hummus and carrots will keep you from feeling famished. After you’re seated tell your server to skip the bread basket to avoid temptation. If you want an appetizer, select a lean protein like an Ahi Tuna tartar or shrimp cocktail, edamame, or a side salad with a light dressing like balsamic vinaigrette. In fact, studies have shown that eating a small salad before your meal may help reduce your total calorie intake during that meal. Just be mindful of the contents of the salad. Ingredients like cheese, bacon, and cream-based dressings can rack up calories quickly.
3. Understand the Menu
How are meat and vegetables cooked or marinated? What kind of sauces are used? These are very important questions that will help you understand how healthy your meal really is. If you’re unsure after reading the description, just ask your server how the meal is prepared.
»» Choose steamed, blackened, poached, broiled, baked, grilled, and roasted. These options mean the meal was cooked with little to no oils or creams.
»» Avoid au gratin, basted, braised, buttered, creamed, scalloped, fried/crispy, cheese/butter/ cream sauce, gravy, pan fried/pan roasted, and sautéed. These options pack on calories and fat with added oils, cheese, and creams during the cooking process.
4. Ask for a Substitute
Opt for a side salad, steamed veggies, or fruit in place of fries, mashed potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, or any other popular high-calorie side dish. Order salad dressings on the side. Many restaurants will also offer substitute reduced-calorie salad dressings and salt substitutes. Just tell your server what you are looking for, and ask for any suggestions. They are the menu pros and may be able to suggest something that you wouldn’t have thought of. Just note that every server is different and has their own like and dislikes, so use this tip at your own risk.
5. Go Custom
When all else fails, go beyond the menu. If a restaurant has the ingredients they will have no problem making you a simple healthy meal, even if it isn’t one of their signature dishes. If your go-to healthy meal is a grilled chicken breast with steamed spinach and brown rice, and they have all those ingredients in other menu items, chances are they can make it (one of my favorites is a hamburger patty and house salad). When ordering this way, don’t worry about finding a menu item that seems close to what you want and changing it. Just simply say “I would like a grilled chicken breast, with a side of steamed spinach and brown rice, can you do that?”. Ordering the meal you would have made for yourself at home is an easy way to keep your routine and enjoy time out with friends.
These tips will should help you feel more confident ordering a healthy meal when eating out. If you have any additional tips you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it! Please leave a comment below.
Keeping it real,