Eating out CAN be a total disaster for you if you are trying to eat healthy- but it doesn’t have to be!
Just because it can be a little more difficult doesn’t mean you should just give up and face-plant into a bowl of patatas bravas… it means that you may need to be a bit more aware of how to order, how to eat and what to avoid! Most of all, that you need is a little bit of prep work, some good decision making, and a great mindset in order to easily navigate dinners out AND maintain your healthy lifestyle.
In my nutrition coaching programs, I focus on teaching my clients not just WHAT to eat, but how to enjoy different foods in different settings- just because you are eating in a restaurant or at an event doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your goals. Here are some tips to help you stick to your plan while eating at a restaurant:
1. Read the menu.
If you can, check the menu ahead of time online. Not an option? Just make sure you take the time to actually READ your options when you are sitting at the table! Ordering off of a set menu or shared plates? Ask the waiter if you can make any substitutions.. Even just asking for sauces on the side, or switching fries for veggies can make a big difference.
2. Choose your drinks wisely.
Your best option is water- still or sparkling. Alcohol adds up quickly, and can actually cause you to overeat without realizing it! Yes, having a glass of wine with dinner can add to the experience. But it’s not obligatory to order alcohol, even if everyone else is! If you DO decide to drink, try alternating water with alcohol- you might find that instead of 3 glasses of wine, you are good with just one.
3. Pick veggies and lean proteins.
Avoid options that are described as: fried, crunchy, creamy, breaded, melted, stuffed, etc- these tend to be items that have A LOT of added fat to them- more than you would think! Stick to terms like: grilled, steamed, seared, spiced, poached, seasoned, etc- these tend to be options that are cooked with less added fat, but still tons of flavor. Remember, in a restaurant they are going for taste, not health, so you can almost always assume that the fat and salt content will be much higher than what you would make at home. For veggies, start with a salad, or order a vegetable side dish- I promise you’ll thank me later!
4. Eat patiently.
It takes up to 20 minutes for your stomach and brain to communicate the feeling of fullness- so if you eat quickly, you may find that you end up over-full and uncomfortable. Take your time in between bites- put your fork down on your plate and chew your food well. You’re not obligated to finish everything on your plate.
5. Be picky about your treats.
You don’t HAVE to order dessert or alcohol, and its totally OK to ask for a burger without a bun, or salad instead of fries. If you do choose to partake in treats, if it’s not absolutely delicious, skip it. Those are choices you can make- even if dessert is included in the price of the meal, you don’t have to eat it. Sometimes you can’t control what is on your plate- but you can control what actually ends up in your mouth.
In conclusion, I think you’ll find that these tips will help you enjoy a healthier meal at almost any restaurant. Let me know if this advice works for you, or if you have any other healthy restaurant tips I may have forgotten to add here.