How to Eat Healthy While Eating Out
Dining out is a great way to catch up with friends and family. However, eating at a restaurant, and healthy eating are two things that rarely go together. A recent study found that the average restaurant meal clocks in 1,128 calories, and that’s before drinks! Going out to eat doesn’t have to sabotage your diet. If you plan ahead and look at the menu carefully, you can have a healthy meal that you don’t feel guilty about.
Use these tips to make your next restaurant trip a healthy success.
- If it sounds unhealthy, it probably is. Meal descriptions with words like creamy, buttery, stuffed and smothered mean the meal is likely loaded with fat and calories. Au gratin, Parmesan, cheese-filled, or sautéed also mean that there might be plenty of calories in the meal. Instead, look for meal descriptions that contain grilled, broiled, or baked food. Also, choose tomato based over creamy or cheese based sauces
- Have a plan. Eat lighter meals throughout the day or eat a light dinner if you had a big lunch. Check online menus, if available, to look for healthier meals. Some restaurants now have a “light meal” section of their menus with meals that are 600 calories or less.
- Drink water. Drink water before and during your meal. Research has found that people who drink 17 ounces of water a half hour before a meal ate fewer calories.
- Order a salad first. A study found that those who eat a large vegetable salad before the main meal ate fewer calories than those who didn't.
- Gluten-free doesn't mean healthy. Gluten-free just means there is no gluten in the food, not that it’s low calorie or low fat. This option can also sometimes be more caloric because the recipe requires extra ingredients to make up for the lack of gluten.
- Immediately ask for a to-go box. Many restaurants serve portions that are triple that of the recommended portion size. Immediately put half or even 75 percent of your entrée in a to-go box to eat as leftovers.
- Eat the lower calorie portion first. Eat the lower calorie sides before the main portion to help fill you up.
- Put your fork down. Putting your fork down between each bite for a minute or two can help prevent over eating. This can also help you practice mindful eating by taking time to savor the aromas and flavors of your meal.
Now for our most important tip: it’s okay to splurge every once in a while – just don’t do it every time you go out to eat.