Eggplant parmesan. A nice, thick steak. Sizzling fajitas brought straight to your table. Maybe a nice glass of red wine. If these made your mouth water, you’re not alone. Dining out in restaurants is one of life’s great pleasures, particularly if it’s a special occasion with friends and family. However, poor choices can easily derail your nutrition and diet plans. Don’t worry—healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to forego your favorite meals. Here are some simple principles to keep in mind to help you stay the course and still enjoy a leisurely meal at your favorite restaurant.
Whether you’re going to an elegant five-star restaurant or you’re just grabbing a quick bite with friends, know what’s on the menu before you go. Many chain restaurants have their nutritional information online. Internet resources such as MenuStat can be a big help.
Be aware of portion distortion
It’s no secret that American serving sizes are way too big, and it’s too easy to feel the need to “clean your plate.” Before you go out, remind yourself of appropriate portion sizes –there are several helpful slideshows online. To keep from overeating, it’s helpful to set aside half your meal for later and ask for a takeout bag. In addition, consider having a salad or fruit that will help you feel full. If you’re going out for dinner, see if the restaurant will let you order the lunch-sized portion.
It goes without saying that buffets are a bad idea, but if you find yourself at one, you can take advantage of any fresh fruit or salad choices. These will help you feel full and decrease the desire to overeat.
Make healthy choices
- Ordering food that is broiled or grilled— never fried.
- Opting for a baked potato instead of fries.
- Drinking water with lemon instead of a soda.
- Limit alcohol. Many alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories. However, if you’d still like to indulge, a wine spritzer or mojito is a better option than a sugary cocktail such as a margarita or daiquiri, and keep it to two drinks max.
- Using a vinaigrette salad dressing instead of ranch or other high-fat dressings.
- Avoid adding salt.
- Splitting a dessert among your friends, or taking half of it home.
Fast food options
Whether you go out to eat only on special occasions or it’s a weekly activity, remember to savor your food. Eat slowly, have a great conversation with your friends and enjoy the atmosphere. It takes your brain a while to register that your stomach is full, so a more leisurely pace gives your mind time to get the signal.
Eating out doesn’t have to derail your diet and exercise plans–and eating healthier doesn’t mean you have to forego going to that new restaurant you’ve been dying to try. A nutritionist or dietitian can provide additional useful information about how to eat healthier whether you’re fixing a home-cooked meal or you’re having lunch with friends.
Need more practical advice on how to eat healthier? Feel free to contact our dietitian, Nicole Matala.