Eating healthy can be a real challenge. Trying to eat healthy at a restaurant with pages full of sweet, salty, and savory items, not to mention the mouthwatering description of each item, is even harder. However, there are ways to go to a restaurant and eat a delicious and filling meal with out making unhealthy choices. Here are 8 ways to eat healthy when you are eating out.
1. Be an Assertive Diner
When you eat out, ask for the meal of your choice to be prepared the way that you like it. Instead of ordering a fried item, ask your server if you can get it grilled instead. Rather than a heaping side of French fries with your meal, ask to replace them with a side of raw vegetables or a bowl of fruit. Most restaurants will comply with your requests and make the food the way that you like it to ensure customer loyalty and satisfaction. Just remember that if the staff is going the extra mile to make you a healthy meal, you should reward them with a healthy tip.
2. Order Salads
While this may seem like a given, there are certain guidelines that you should follow when ordering a salad from a restaurant. The first is to ensure that the salad of your choice is actually healthy. Any creamy sauce “salads” such as pasta salad, potato salad, or coleslaw pretty much guarantee that the meal is not going to be healthy. In addition, avoid adding unnecessary sugars and fats to your salad with bacon bits, fried noodles, and excessive dressing. Ask for the dressing on the side and try to fork dip your dressing. This means that instead of pouring the dressing over your salad, dip your bare fork into the dressing and then gather a bite of salad. This will allow you to use a smaller amount of dressing while still adding flavor to each bite. Here are some healthier salad dressing options to try out.
3. Order Simple
Before you start scouring through the menu, develop and idea of what you want your meal to look like and keep it simple. A protein and a produce makes for a healthy and filling meal. Search the menu for grilled chicken and add vegetables or a salad as the side dish. Fish is also an excellent source of protein, but make sure it is grilled rather than fried. Additionally, beware of certain trigger words that let you know the meal is probably loaded with lots of unhealthy fats. Such words include creamy, crispy, breaded, sautéed, stuffed, and buttery.
4. Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to inquire about certain menu items. Servers are trained to know the menu backwards and forward, so asking questions about ingredients or how a menu item is prepared is perfectly okay. For instance, some items might proudly claim to be cholesterol free but what does that mean? It doesn’t necessarily mean it is fat free. Some menu items may be categorized as “lite” options but could still be loaded with calories. Restaurants are adapting to an increasingly health conscious society and will even have a “healthy” section of the menu all separated out for you. However, if you are unsure about whether or not a meal is really going to be healthy or not, it is better to ask questions and get a nutritional meal rather than accidentally ordering a mountain of sugar and fat disguised as a salad.
5. Eat Slowly
Enjoy your dining experience! Eating out is a special occasion and should be treated as such. Don’t rush through your meal and leave the restaurant in a food coma. Eating slowly makes you eat less food while still being satisfied at the end of your meal. It takes about twenty minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry. If you scarf down a meal in ten minutes your brain does not have time to recognize that you were full long before you were finished eating. Try drinking water throughout the meal as well. It will help you eat slower and get full faster.
6. Avoid Soda
At this point, it is well known that soda is very bad for you. It is loaded with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients that offer no nutritional value. So, ask for water with your meal instead. It will not add unnecessary calories to your dining experience and, as mentioned above, will help you to eat slower and get full faster.
7. Skip the “Extras”
There is no need for a big basket of bread right before you order your meal. What is the point of ordering a healthy meal and then filling up on breadsticks before your meal even arrives? It is counterintuitive. If you need something to snack on while waiting for your meal to come out, consider ordering a plate of raw veggies to munch on.
Additionally, at the end of your meal you will likely be stuffed and the server will come around and ask you if you want to try their molten brownie, or world famous chocolate cake with whipped cream and sprinkles galore. Just. Say. No. It is okay to indulge every once in a while, but for the most part dessert is just a way to make your bill and your pant size go up. If you have a sweet tooth at the end of your meal, wait until you get home and enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate or a scoop of frozen yogurt.
8. Get a box!
Restaurants often serve two to three times the recommended serving size. If you ask, they will sometimes allow you to order half portions of a meal. Otherwise, just get a box! There is no need to finish a meal that big no matter how good it is. Get a box and treat yourself to a delicious lunch the next day. Some of us may lack the will power to put down the fork before the food is gone. If this is the case, ask for a box with your order and put half of it away upon the arrival of your food. You might be surprised how full you still get after eating only half a meal.
While eating healthy in restaurants may be tricky with all the tempting and unhealthy menu options available, it is far from impossible. Customize your meal to be made the way you like it so you can enjoy a nutritious and filling meal. And save the leftovers so you can enjoy it again the next day!