Eating Healthy While Dining Out

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Going to restaurants and eating out is an undeniably fun experience; tasty new foods, no cooking, socializing with friends or family, and no cleanup either! Although the fun can sometimes turn into a drag if you’re trying to eat healthy or on a “diet”. Worrying about what you’re going to eat, or feeling guilty afterwards might overshadow the fun. Restaurants aren’t notorious for their healthy options, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your goals or feel bad (physically or mentally) after going out to eat. With some ingenuity, fearlessness and know-how, you can manage to not feel deprived and keep enjoying going out to eat while doing it healthfully.

  1. Look for clean proteins - steak, grilled chicken, and salmon are all great options and are usually what I recommend looking for on any menu first. Look to see that the dish isn’t drenched in a cream sauce, or covered in cheese though. Opt for veggies as your side, or a side salad. A meal like this will keep you full while still offering lots of taste. Ask for a side of salsa for a little extra spice.

  2. Skip the bread - That giant bread basket that comes out before your meal, yeah, don’t eat that! You don’t need the empty calories, or simple carbohydrates that will spike your blood sugar. If you don’t trust yourself not to eat it when your server brings it, ask them ahead of time to not bring any bread.

  3. Load up on vegetables - Order vegetables as your side dish, and even ask them to double the veggie portion if you’re feeling adventurous! Look on the appetizer menu for veggie based appetizers like brussel sprouts or mushrooms and order those instead of a main dish (or in addition to something else). Watch out for fried vegetables, however!

  4. Order a big salad - This may seems like an obvious tip, but sticking with a salad is sometimes really the best option at a restaurant. To make a salad more satiating add some grilled meat like chicken or salmon. Forgo things like croutons, crispy onions, cheese, or creamy dressings.

  5. Ask for dressing on the side (or not at all) - Dressings and sauces have not only a lot of extra calories, but a lot of questionable oils and trans fats. In my experience the junky oils that restaurants use are often to blame for why you might feel less than stellar after eating out. When you’re controlling the amount of dressing, you’ll typically use less. Ask for olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice if you’re worried about the dressings or the oils used for a safer standby.

  6. Go bunless - Order your burger without the bun and lettuce wrap it instead! Many restaurants are accommodating to this request nowadays, so don’t be shy. Getting rid of the bun will cut down on simple carbohydrates and also give you a better blood sugar outlook when you’re done with your meal. You can almost always find a burger on a menu, so this trick can be helpful if you’re at a smaller restaurant or there aren’t other options.

  7. Ask your server questions - Don’t be hesitant when it comes such as what the ingredients in a dish are, what types of oils are used in cooking, what types of dressing are used. Don’t be afraid to speak up, as most servers are very understanding and are happy to work with you on modifying or substitutions. Avoid things you know cause you digestive upset like dairy or gluten and ask for substitutions for these things instead.

With these tips in mind, some careful menu reading and diligence, you’ll be able to order like a pro at a restaurant without worrying about feeling guilty afterwards. Also don’t feel guilty if you do decide to order something you really have been craving or looks extra delicious; enjoy it and move on with life. Life is too short not to enjoy a special dinner now and again with food you love. Part of eating healthy is our mindset around food, and if you’re stressed out, no matter the choices you make, it won’t benefit you in the long run.

Do you have any other tips when it comes to eating out? Any questions? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading and happy eating!