You’ve committed to eating a healthier diet, and you’ve changed your kitchen and the way you eat at home. But, what do you eat when you need to dine out? What if your job involves travel and you are frequently away from home? Don’t worry, if you invest some time and thought, you can easily maintain your new healthy habits when dining out.
Plan Ahead: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends you start by planning ahead. When you know you will be dining out, research restaurants available in your area. Ask friends and family what restaurants they recommend. Look at their menus online and find healthy items. Plan what you will order before you get to the restaurant to avoid making poor choices in the spur of the moment.
Banish the Bread Bowl: Many restaurants serve baskets of bread or chips before the meal. Ask the server to take them away, or take just one roll, and then ask for the basket to be removed.
Dressing on the Side: Salads can be a healthy choice if they aren’t drowned in dressing or covered with fried meats or cheese. To reduce calories, ask for your dressing to be served on the side. This allows you to control how much you use. Also, choose salads loaded with veggies, fruit, and nuts. Additionally, ask for sauces and condiments to be served on the side with other dishes or entrees. Choosing condiments on the side, is a strategy endorsed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Focus on Fruits and Vegetables: Make fruits and vegetables the main part of your meal or try ordering a meat-free meal. Many restaurants offer vegetarian options or “vegetable plates”. Other ideas include bean tacos or burritos, pasta with vegetables, or portobello mushroom “burgers”.
Share: Restaurant portions are often much larger than what you eat at home. Consider splitting an entree with your companion to decrease calories by half.
Avoid Fried Foods: Fried foods contain more calories and unhealthy fats. Instead, choose baked, grilled, roasted, broiled, or steamed foods, a suggestion of the experts at the Mayo Clinic.
Choose Beverages Wisely: Avoid high sugar beverages such as sodas, fruit punch, and sweet tea. Instead drink water or unsweetened tea or coffee. If you choose an alcoholic beverage, avoid high sugar mixed drinks such as daiquiris, margaritas, or drinks with simple syrup or grenadine. Also, alternate alcoholic beverages with water, or drink them only with the actual entree.
End on a Good Note: If you want dessert, look for options that center on fruit or choose sorbet. Also, many restaurants now offer “mini” desserts that give you just a taste of something sweet. Or, split a dessert with your companions. Cappuccino or coffee can be a great end to your meal, instead of a heavy dessert.
These are just a few options to keep you on track. Think about the healthy meals you eat at home, and try to replicate them when dining out. With time and experience, you’ll find more ways to eat healthy in restaurants.