When we are trying to get (or stay) healthy and lean, eating at home provides us the greatest flexibility and control. We can shop according to plan, keep an eye on the amount of salt, fat, and sugar we are using, and even have a better ability to manage portions.
But sometimes time constraints and celebrations put eating out “on the table.” How can we still stick to our healthy eating plan? Especially when restaurants would rather be known for their incredibly irresistible options, instead of being diet conscious. Here are eight tips to keep you on track:
An easy way to feel fulfilled at a restaurant is to make sure you are getting lots of greenery in. Raw, grilled, or steamed is best of course. If you load up on veggies, not only will this help you achieve your fiber and nutrient goals for the day, but it will also help you stick to appropriate portions on other items on your plate. Ask your server about the vegetable of the day and add it as a side dish. Get the house salad (no dressing!) to fill up a little even before your meal arrives.
Fish can be a very healthy option, offering lots of protein and omega-3s while being manageable on the calorie front. Shrimp and other shellfish also are loaded with protein while being low in calories. But mind how it’s prepared and go easy on sauces. Most restaurants will gladly grill your fish without butter or put sauces on the side, if you ask.
Fried, au gratin, braised, buttered, escalloped, hollandaise, cheese and cream sauces, gravy, pan-fried, “rich” and in butter sauce. These are all diet and health busters. Eat only on rare occasions. Or dive in if you are trying to increase your health complications, which presumably, you are not. Instead, baked, broiled, grilled, poached, and steamed are great choices.
Beware of anything described as pickled, smoked, au jus, or cocktail, as these are all are very high in sodium. As are soy and teriyaki sauces. Eat or use in moderation.
Have a Heart
Some restaurants designate which of their dishes are heart-healthy with an icon. Others list calorie content right next to the menu item. And if a calorie content looks like it’s enough for two meals, make it two meals! Don’t be bashful to wrap half for tomorrow’s lunch.
What’s the Intel
Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in a dish or if you can make some substitutions. Most places are happy to accommodate. Substituting a red sauce (tomato based, lower in fat) for a cheese sauce is usually an easy fix. Substituting the vegetable of the day for French fries is another easy fix. Replacing hash browns with fresh fruit at brunch is so common it’s often already listed as an option on the menu.
Step to the Side
Scoured the menu and nothing looks like a suitable healthy choice? Peek at the side dishes. You can often put together a fantastic meal by choosing two to three items from that list, from grilled asparagus to a baked sweet potato to other delicious and filling items.
Portion control is the easiest way to manage eating out. When your plate arrives, if you haven’t already committed to sharing it with your dining partner (that healthy AND fun!), then cut it in half and take part home.
Follow these 8 tips and you’re sure to be a success, whether you eat at home or have a spontaneous night out.