If you’re working to make positive lifestyle changes, including changing your nutrition habits, it may seem nearly impossible to enjoy dining out with friends.
A whopping 92 percent of restaurant meals contain more calories than is recommended for an average person, according to a recent study in the Journal of American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
But don’t sweat it! You can savor the restaurant experience and still keep those healthy habits on track with these tips for eating out.
Go in with a plan.
Many restaurants post their menus online. Check out the offerings and choose what you’re going to eat before you arrive. This helps prevent peer pressure to order unhealthy foods. It also reduces the stress of hunting for a healthy menu item while the waiter is standing over you, pen in hand.
Nosh on a light snack before you go.
This will take the edge off of hunger, especially if you end up waiting a long time at the restaurant for your food to arrive. A nutrition-filled snack is also a healthier alternative to most of the appetizers you’ll find on the menu.
Yummy pre-meal snack choices include fresh fruits and veggies or a small handful of whole, unsalted nuts, like almonds.
Drink your H2O.
Order water as soon as you arrive and then drink the entire glass before the food comes. Water flushes your system, but it also takes the edge off hunger so you’re less likely to overeat. In one study, obese participants who drank about 16 ounces of water before each meal lost more weight than those who didn’t consume a pre-meal glass.
Drinking water while you’re eating out also helps reduce the temptation to drink too much alcohol, which is full of empty calories—and also expensive. So that glass of H2O will make your waistline and your bank account happy.
Hunger for healthy swaps.
Don’t eat the breadsticks—it’s a trap! Many restaurants give you rolls or breadsticks while you wait for your main course because they’re loaded with fast-digesting carbs that make you hungrier, influencing you to order even more food! Good for the restaurant, bad for your body. In addition, in place of those tempting fried appetizers delivered to your table and dripping with grease, opt for a salad or broth-based soup.
When ordering your food, ditch the not-so-good ingredients in favor of healthier options. For example, ask to have a menu item baked instead of fried. Grain-based foods, like bread and pasta, are also a good spot to make healthy swaps. Whole grain options offer more fiber, filling you up faster so you’re less tempted to clean your plate. Consider alternatives like:
- Whole grain rolls
- Whole grain pasta
- Brown rice
Don’t get saucy with sauces and dressings.
The wrong sauce can turn the right dish into a calorie-dripping mess. Likewise, a healthy salad can drown in fat and calories when topped with a heavy dressing. Avoid heavy sauces and dressings as well as those with a cream or cheese base. And, no matter what type of sauce or dressing you order, always ask for it on the side so you can control portions.
Go for the Greens!
Reach for the greens first.
Look for menu options with a side salad. When the salad arrives, eat at least three quarters of it before diving into the entree. This fills you with healthy greens and veggies so you’re less tempted to eat oversized portions of unhealthy carbs or proteins.
Eat until you’re about 80 percent full.
Avoid that gut-busting Thanksgiving feeling that makes you want to unbutton your pants—stop eating when you’re not quite full. Get a doggie bag for those leftovers to enjoy for lunch the following day.
From guided workouts to tips for eating out, get the guidance you need to make positive changes in your life. Contact Cause and Effects Fitness for a complimentary consultation.
Also, check out our blog post “Top 10 Healthy Places to Eat in Lancaster” for great ideas on healthy options for eating out.