Eating out should be relaxing. Someone else does the prep, cooking and clean-up for you. All you have to do is order and chow down. Easy peasy, right? Maybe. But, if you’ve been striving to meet certain dietary needs, a meal away from home might be stressful.
Before you pack your purse with carrot sticks and reconciling to being the one person at the table who is afraid to eat restaurant food, try these 7 tips to help you enjoy a healthy meal out:
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Forget the Restaurant Woes, 7 Tips for Healthy Eating When You’re Dining Out
1) Read the menu before you go.
Many restaurants large and small post their menus on the internet. This gives you a chance to read the details without feeling rushed or distracted. You can come up with a plan that meshes with your wellness goals.
2) Drink water.
Before your meal and sip it while you eat. Water is easier on your system (and your wallet) than high-calorie sugary drinks or alcohol. Alcohol adds calories to a meal and lowers your inhibitions making it likely you’ll consume excess food calories. Sugary drinks, including fruit juice, add extra calories and spike blood sugar. Diet drinks are full of chemicals that your innards will have to deal with later. Stick with water. Studies show drinking water can help you feel full, improve digestion and help you stay the course when it comes to sticking to a nutrition plan.
3) Be adventurous.
Use what you’re not spending on drinks to jazz up your meal with a nutrient blast. Order a side salad, a healthy appetizer or add vegetables or fresh fruit to your plate. Think about how a splash of mushrooms or pineapple added to your entrée might make it special.
If your entrée comes with an item you don’t want, find out if you can switch it out for something that suits you. If not, ask for that food to be left off your plate and double-up on vegetables. The days of Burger King being one of the few restaurants encouraging you to “have it your way” are long gone. Remember the jingle? Things have changed since 1974! Restaurants readily tweak dishes to diners’ requests.
5) All veggies are not prepared equally.
Ask how the vegetables are cooked. If you don’t want them buttered or stir-fried, specify that. If you are watching your sodium intake, request low salt.
6) Try sauce on the side.
If you’re ordering a salad, sandwich or something similar, ask for the sauce or dressing on the side. That way you can control the amount of calories, sodium, fat or sugar you add to your food.
7) Split the banana split!
Dining out doesn’t have to mean you need to sit on the sidelines when it comes to dessert. If there’s something you really want to try, share it with your tablemates. Your friends might be eyeballing the cake cart too. Having a bite might help you avoid eating a sleeve of cookies when you get home.