Eating out in a restaurant can be challenging when you are trying to make health-conscious choices while also enjoying your meal. Things can get out of hand quickly when you are faced with too many options. It’s easy to consume more calories, fat, and sodium in one restaurant meal than you need for the entire day. With a little planning however, you can make your dining-out experience tasty, enjoyable, and healthy.
Before you go out to eat, come up with a “dining-out strategy”.
Use these tips to create your healthy dining out strategy.
- Be prepared for your dining out experience by scoping out the restaurant’s menu ahead of time. Most restaurants have a web site showing their menu or you can use a site like www.yelp.com. This will allow you to pre-determine your entrée or at least narrow it down to a few choices. You may not get specific nutrition information, but you can get a general idea of which dishes would be a better choice.
- Set the stage for success by starting your meal with a salad, broth-based soup, or veggie appetizer. This will help to take the edge of your hunger, so you are less like to overeat. If you order a salad, be sure to ask for dressing on the side so you can control how much you use.
- Choose a main dish that is steamed, grilled, baked, or broiled instead of fried or sautéed; and limit foods that are creamy or breaded as this typically means fatty and salty. Look for an entrée that includes vegetables such as a stir-fry or kebob. Also consider asking for extra vegetables on the side.
- If the main entree is larger than you want, set some of it aside or pack half of it “to go” immediately – before you start eating. Another option is to share it with someone. Or consider ordering an appetizer-sized portion or side dish as your meal instead of a full entrée.
- As a beverage choice, ask for water, unsweetened tea, or another drink without added sugar. Be especially careful when it comes to alcohol as the calories can add up quickly. Over time, this can contribute to weight gain.
- If you want dessert, consider ordering fruit. If that just won’t do it for you, ask if someone would like to share a dessert with you. Sometimes just a bite or two is enough to satisfy your taste for something sweet.
- Eat slowly and pay attention. Take one bite at a time, chew it well, and swallow before putting more food in your mouth. Take a deep breath before the next bite to pace yourself. This allows you to really enjoy your food and makes it less likely that you will overeat. When you eat quickly, you may go past the point of satisfaction without realizing it.
Lorraine Matthews-Antosiewicz, MS, RD
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