When you are trying to eat healthier, ordering food at some restaurants can seem impossible. Many restaurant menus are loaded with tantalizing options that tempt you into ordering a sugary, salty – and diet sabotaging – dish.
A 2016 study from the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 92% of meals from more than 120 restaurants assessed were served at portion sizes that exceeded calorie recommendations for a single meal. Some of these meals even exceeded total daily calorie recommendations.
Thankfully, even if you are serious about your healthy diet, eating out doesn’t have be a struggle. With a few tips and some planning, you can enjoy your favorite restaurant without compromising your healthy habits.
Review the menu online
Many restaurants have their menus online, so you can choose what you want to eat ahead of time. Plan your meal with the healthiest choices that appeal to you.
Be the first to order
Listening to what your dining companions are eating can sway you into changing your mind. Order first and stick to your plan.
Know cooking definitions
Grilled, steamed, and broiled are generally cooked with less oil and salt. Breaded, smothered, fried, loaded, sautéed, alfredo, and creamy are all dishes that are heavy on the calories. Choose the lighter options.
It’s tempting to skip lunch or breakfast to save yourself some calories. However, you’ll just end up famished and eating more than you intended to. Eat healthy meals during the day to avoid overeating at the restaurant.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Ask if you can have vegetables instead of fries or chips. Ask to have the bread plate removed to avoid temptation. Ask if there is a way to have the meal made a little more healthily – i.e. light on the cheese or oil, no butter, grilled chicken instead of fried, dressing or sauce on the side.
Watch portion sizes
Many restaurants list the size of their steak, but in general, a piece of meat should be about 4 ounces. Is the potato huge or do you have a mountain of spaghetti? Eat half of it. Take leftovers home to enjoy another night. Not sure what a portion looks like? Our Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale or Precision Elite Digital Kitchen Scale can help you understand portion sizes so you are prepared the next time you dine out.
Start with a salad
Salads are a great choice, unless they are loaded with bacon, cheese, croutons, and then coated in a creamy dressing. Go for mixed greens and veggies with an oil based dressing. Always ask for the dressing on the side and add it sparingly.
Alcohol adds calories and sugar without any nutrition. If you plan have a drink, stick to a glass of wine or beer. If you truly want a cocktail, stay away from sugary mixers and opt for your drink to be mixed with club soda and a squeeze of lime or splash of fruit juice. If you’re having more than one alcoholic beverage, always have a glass of water to sip in between drinks.
Beware of beverages
Similar to alcohol, sodas, juices, and sweetened soft drinks add calories without any nutritional value. Opt for water, club soda with lime or lemon, or an unsweetened iced tea. Drink smart and don’t waste calories on sugary beverages.
Pick a healthy starter
Choosing a healthy appetizer can help curb your hunger and leave you feeling satisfied rather than stuffed. Broth based soup, green salads with vinaigrette dressing, edamame, or shrimp cocktail are all examples of healthy starters.
Order an appetizer as your meal
Do you clean your plate without realizing how much you’ve eaten? Most restaurant portions are too large. Smaller than a full meal, appetizers tend to be just the right size for a meal, especially when paired with a healthy starter.
Beware of salt bombs
Dishes that rely on sauces, broth, red sauce or cheese tend to be high in sodium. If you want to control your salt intake, stick to foods like grilled meats, vegetables and baked potatoes. Even some salad toppings, such as olives, cheese, and croutons are also higher in salt, so eat those sparingly.
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