Tips for Eating Healthy at Restaurants
Going out to eat is one of the greatest luxuries in life, and nothing is better than hitting the town for a night of delicious food and drinks. While eating out is incredible, it can be detrimental to your waistline (and your wallet!) by setting you way over your calorie count or recommended amounts of fat, sodium, or anything in between just from one meal. According to a study by Time Magazine, 92% of restaurant meals have way more calories than recommended for the average person.
Smaller restaurants, such as fast food restaurants, are typically required by law to report the calorie count for every meal or food item they sell. However, large restaurant chains don’t always have to report calories meaning you don’t always know what you’re eating, and the portions are much larger.
Luckily, there are a few ways to eat out without totally ruining your calorie count but still being able to enjoy yourself. All it takes is a little planning ahead!
CHECK THE MENU ONLINE FIRST
If the restaurant posts their menu online (most usually do), take a peek and see what they have to offer. This will allow you to see if they do offer calorie counts for their meals, if they offer healthy options, or if their menu mainly consists of unhealthy meals. Planning ahead is key in keeping your eating habits healthy and prevent overeating.
LOOK FOR KEY WORDS ON THE MENU
When you’re scanning the menu, be sure to keep an eye out for a few words that are dead giveaways that a dish is unhealthy. Anything made with these descriptions tend to have hidden fat or salt. For example:
Instead, look for these types of descriptors:
CONSIDER GOING UPSCALE
If money isn’t a concern when you decide to treat yourself, going for a bit of a fancier restaurant is helpful in portion control. This is due to the fact that upscale restaurants have a tendency to offer smaller portions than bigger chain restaurants.
Additionally, make a reservation when possible. This will keep you from having to wait for a table, making you hungrier (all the while smelling a ton of delicious food) and potentially causing you to overeat or order something unhealthy.
ASK FOR EXTRA VEGGIES
Sounds a little crazy, right? But if you’re looking to stay healthy, avoid the French fries and other starchy side dishes. Ask for a double or even triple order of veggies. Keep in mind that vegetables at restaurants are often cooked in a lot of butter so be sure to ask them to avoid the butter or cook them in water instead.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK ABOUT PREPARATION
As mentioned, chefs often trained to use a lot of butter in salt in their dishes. The problem is that the chef isn’t necessarily worried about your health, they’re worried about making food taste good. If you’re worried about excess fat or salt in your meal, don’t be concerned about asking your waiter how your food is prepared. This could mean a difference of hundreds of calories!
SHARING IS CARING
If you do want to indulge in a nice pasta dish or the dessert menu is calling your name, a simple solution is to cut it in half! Consider ordering a dessert for the table or to split with your dinner date. This is especially helpful for entrees since most main dishes are too large for one person anyway. Talk about the possibility of splitting your meal and your calories are cut in half!
If no one wants to share a meal, ask for a box when you’re about halfway through your meal. Not only will you save calories, you have delicious leftovers!
AVOID THE FANCY COCKTAILS
If you plan to drink alcohol, avoid anything that has excessive sugar such as a margarita or anything that includes syrups or other sugary mixes. Stick with a glass of wine, a light beer, a simple martini or a vodka and soda water. These are healthier options and keep excess sugar out of your drink. (Especially if you’d like to have more than one!)
DRINK WATER DURING THE MEAL
This may go without saying, but there are additional benefits to drinking water during your meal besides just hydration. Drinking water keeps you from eating too fast, which will allow your brain to stay caught up with your stomach to prevent overeating.
If plain water is boring, ask for sparkling water or add a lemon to spice things up.
GO FOR THE MEATS
Meat has a lot of protein and, when lean enough, is a great option as opposed to pasta or bread. If you’re ordering steak go for leaner cuts such as flank steak, skirt steak, tenderloin, sirloin or filet mignon. Chicken, especially chicken breasts, are a high protein, low fat option as well.
Fish is also a great option especially because it can be prepared in so many different ways- grilled, baked, steamed, broiled, sautéed, etc. Fish is another great option that allows you to feel full and satisfied without loading up on carbs or unhealthy fats.
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