Eating out can be a fun and social experience, but it can also be a challenge when trying to make healthy choices. The temptation to indulge in rich, calorie-dense foods can be overwhelming, but there are several strategies you can use to maintain a healthy diet while eating out.
Research the Menu Ahead of Time
Before you head to a restaurant, take some time to look up the menu online. This will give you an idea of what options are available and allow you to plan ahead. Look for dishes that are grilled, baked, or steamed rather than fried or breaded. Choose dishes with lean protein sources such as chicken, fish, or turkey instead of red meat options like steak or burgers. Also, be mindful of hidden calories and sugar in sauces and dressings. You can always ask for these on the side or omit them altogether.
Ask for Modifications
Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to your meal. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate special requests such as swapping out fries for a side salad or asking for dressing on the side. You can also ask for smaller portion sizes or share an entrée with a friend. When making modifications, try to stick to simple requests to avoid confusion or mistakes.
Choose Lean Protein
When selecting your main dish, opt for lean protein sources such as chicken, fish, or turkey. These options tend to be lower in calories and saturated fat compared to red meat options like steak or burgers. If you are vegetarian or vegan, look for plant-based protein options such as beans, lentils, or tofu.
Load Up on Vegetables
Vegetables are a great way to add volume and nutrients to your meal without adding too many calories. Look for vegetable sides like roasted broccoli or grilled asparagus, and consider ordering a salad as your main dish. Be mindful of high-calorie toppings such as cheese, croutons, or creamy dressings. Instead, opt for lighter options like vinaigrette or lemon juice.
Be Mindful of Beverages
Beverages can often add hidden calories and sugar to your meal. Stick with water, unsweetened tea, or black coffee instead of sugary drinks like soda or sweetened iced tea. If you do choose an alcoholic beverage, limit yourself to one and choose lower-calorie options such as wine or light beer.
Practice Portion Control
Restaurant portions tend to be much larger than what we would typically eat at home. Consider asking for a takeout box at the beginning of the meal so you can save half of your entrée for later. Alternatively, you can split an entrée with a friend or order an appetizer as your main course.
Eating out doesn’t have to derail your healthy eating habits. By planning ahead and making mindful choices, you can enjoy delicious meals while still staying on track with your health goals. It’s important to remember that making healthy choices is a journey, not a destination. Every small step towards a healthier lifestyle is progress, and you should be proud of yourself for making those choices.