Healthy eating is possible when eating out – here’s how


Healthy eating is possible when eating out – here’s how

It’s great we have such a variety of eating options – restaurants, convenience, and fast food places.  Even though sticking to a healthy eating plan can be challenging when eating out, it doesn’t have to sabotage your entire dietary meal planning.  All it takes is a few smart strategies along with a healthy dose of self-control.  Here’s how to do it:

·      Have a plan

All great explorers, pioneers and other people who reach their goals always had a plan.  This same rule applies to choosing where and what you will eat when dining out. 

If you know you’ll be eating a big dinner, have a light lunch.  Avoid going out to eat totally ravenous where you’re more likely to order a meal loaded with calories, fat, salt, and sugar.  Choose water as your beverage – no calories plus it keeps you hydrated and it’s free.  Be familiar with cooking terms looking for foods prepared either steamed, broiled, baked or grilled. Limit fried and sautéed items or foods described as ‘crispy,” “rich,” or “au gratin.”

·      Choosing a restaurant

Number one rule – stay away from all-you-can-eat buffets.  Too tempting and too likely you will end up wanting to get your money’s worth by taking advantage of loading up your plate.

Do your homework ahead of time by visiting websites to look at the online menu to see what is offered.  Most chain restaurants and even some independent restaurants, will post nutrition information online allowing you to come prepared knowing ahead of time what you will choose.

·      Be choosy when ordering

Be assertive with what you want to eat as most restaurants will try to be accommodating.  Ask questions on food preparation questioning if you don’t know what a certain term means on the menu.

The key here is to think healthy as in ordering a well-balanced meal choosing healthier selections from different food groups – lean meat, low- or non-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  As an example, a salad made of iceberg lettuce and chopped tomatoes smothered in salad dressing is not exactly a well-balanced meal.  Instead order a salad made with dark leafy greens, topped with several kinds of fresh veggies, dried or fresh fruit, lean meat, grilled chicken or fish.  Ask for the salad dressing on the side and skip the croutons and bacon bits.

Make a sandwich order a healthy one by choosing lettuce, tomato, and onion and use condiments such as ketchup, mustard or relish and low-fat dressings.

Since many restaurants serve large portions sizes, consider sharing a meal with someone or take leftovers home for another meal.  Order a healthy appetizer in place of an entrée adding a small side salad to go with it.

Substitute high fat French fries with a side salad, a baked potato or fruit.  When ordering a baked potato, top it with healthy choices of salsa, chili or yogurt.

·      Master the menu

Every section of the menu has choices, some healthier than others.  Here are some tips to help you choose wisely:

·      Breakfast – Opt for oatmeal with fruit or nuts, a fruit and yogurt parfait, a breakfast sandwich on an English muffin, a short stack of whole wheat pancakes with fruit, or an omelet with veggies.

·      Appetizers – Look for lower-calorie options such as shrimp cocktail or veggies with hummus.

·      Breads and chips – If a bread or chip basket comes before the meal, go easy on portion sizes.

·      Salads – Consider choosing a salad as your main dish.  Choose one with lean poultry, seafood, or lean beef.  Ask for dressing on the side.

·      Vegetables – Choose steamed, grilled, roasted, or raw veggies simply prepared. 

·      Entrees – Choose smaller portions of lean meats, seafood, and poultry that are broiled, grilled, or roasted.  Or try a vegetarian dish, but go easy on ones loaded with cheese or rich sauces.

·      Desserts – Split a dessert with a companion, or choose a mini dessert or a lower-calorie option such as sorbet or fresh fruit.

·      Beverages – Choose water, unsweetened tea or other non-calorie beverages.  If you have a beverage with alcohol, limit to no more than one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. 

·      Take your time enjoying your meal

Leave enough time to slowly eat your meal as it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message you are no longer hungry.  Eating fast leads to overeating – eating slowly and you will end up eating less and feeling more satisfied. 

·      Quit the “clean your plate” club

Restaurants are notorious for piling your plate with large portions making calories quickly add up.  You don’t have to clean your plate, especially when you are filling overly stuffed. Instead, either share a meal with someone or decide to save some leftovers for another meal.  That way you can save yourself from consuming excess calories without wasting food.