Any healthy lifestyle starts with a complete overhaul of your diet. We can all agree that it is easier to maintain a healthy diet when you eat at home than when you eat out.
But with the increasing daily schedules and the number of table side diners here in the US, it can sometimes be a challenge to cook every single one of your meals at home.
Dining out is sociable, fulfilling, fun, and an inevitable way of catching up with friends, colleagues, business associates, and relatives. When you travel or any other time you are away from home, eating out is arguably a great way to re-energize.
Well, eating out should not be your excuse for bad eating habits. However, without the necessary steps, tips, preparation, and precautions, eating out is going to be your worst enemy.
What Makes It Difficult To Maintain A Healthy Diet When You Dine Out?
Recent surveys by the government, nutritionists, and other professional agencies have conclusively noted that the food you get from diners and restaurants is worse nutritionally and health-wise than what you get from your kitchen.
Worse still, even when we all know that the trick to healthy eating is to avoid fast foods or processed foods with high calorie counts, fats, and added sugar, some options are just too difficult to say no to.
Firstly, many diners do provide very scanty nutritional information, or sometimes no nutritional information at all. It is therefore almost impossible to order healthy options since what you believe to be healthy could be the unhealthiest of all.
Occasionally, you do not make a choice of which restaurant you go to since the invite could be from a loved one, a colleague, or business partner.
What do you do when they opt for restaurants with limited healthy dishes? While there are thousands of restaurants out there with healthy and nutritious options, some diners still lack enough healthy options, making it impossible to select an enjoyable and healthy dish.
Chefs have to balance between preparing tasty meals at the lowest possible budget at the expense of the health benefits of the dishes.
Over salting, low class cooking oils, and excessive toppings, dressings, and spices are therefore characteristic of many popular restaurant dishes. Food preparation methods in restaurants is therefore a major obstacle to safe and healthy eating.
Most of us end up indulging or eating too much when we get to restaurants, mainly because we go to restaurants when we are very hungry or there is excitement that comes with good company.
Finally, there is a lot of pressure that comes with eating in diners and restaurants since we tend to hesitate to order something different from our table mates.
The social aspect, coupled with the fear of being nagging and possible exclusion from future invitations is enormous and a sure reason why we sometimes fail to order healthy options.
Most food chains have menus with amazing healthy options that you can choose from. If you know how to look for them, then you will certainly enjoy healthier treats without compromising your social life.
We have made it simpler for you by discussing clever tips that will help make the difference between cheating on your diet and eating out with a healthy conscience.
15 Tips For Eating Healthy At Restaurants:
1. Ask For The Menu Beforehand
The first tip towards a healthy meal in town is to know where you will be eating out. Long gone are the days when menus could only be accessed from inside the eateries.
In a world where almost all modern eateries have their menus online, the best thing would be to look up the menu before you set foot near the restaurant.
With nutritional information available to you online, you get to choose healthier dishes beforehand. Essentially, this helps to avoid snap decisions that often lead to unhealthy or uninformed choices.
This way, you do not have to struggle with a decision amid the distraction from friends or restaurant buzz, hunger, and the appetizing sight of food.
2. Choose Healthy Restaurants
When you are dining out alone or with friends and the decision to choose the diner lies with you, then you should consider choosing restaurants that are likely to be healthier. This may be difficult if you have never been there before.
However, restaurants that are popularly known for fresh farm produce, local ingredients, and organic food are typically healthier. In many cases, these restaurants are highly flexible and are more likely to accept special requests than your ordinary food chains.
3. Call Ahead And Ask Questions
Think of all the questions you may want to ask ahead of your dinner or lunch. For example, when the menu is available online but the nutritional information is missing, then this is the best time to ask about the nutritional value of your preferred dish or make a special request depending on your preferences.
Moreover, if you have any allergies then you have the opportunity to communicate that to the restaurant staff in advance.
While this doesn’t guarantee you an extremely exciting dining experience, the restaurant staff and management are better placed to serve you better. Calling prior gives staff enough time to prepare your requests and provide the best service to you.
4. Check Out How The Food Is Prepared
Food preparation and cooking have an invaluable impact how healthy a meal can be. In fact, certain cooking methods will get the best out of the dish while others will increase the meal's calorie content among other unhealthy properties.
Cooking methods such as roasting, grilling, smoking, broiling, braising, poaching, or steaming use less fat and have a lowered calorie count. On the contrary, crispy, breaded, deep-fried, and coated foods have a higher calorie count and more fat, so are not advisable.
5. Before You Leave, Have A Healthy Snack
It is difficult to control what you eat and the amount when you get to a restaurant when hungry. The best way to prevent hunger from taking the better part of you is to take a healthy snack before you go.
Dried fruit, vegetables, and trail mix or low calorie yogurt are some of the best filling snacks you can take to avoid starving before you get to the restaurant.
6. Be Friends With Your Server
Creating a good rapport with your server is a fundamental step towards eating healthy when eating out. Even though you had checked the menu, considered the available swaps and sides, there is always room to ask.
A good relationship with your waiter ensures that you get the best service and your requests are accommodated. However, it is also ideal to ensure that all your requests are reasonable and realistic.
Many people tip well to make friends with servers. While this is a sure way if you need consistent assistance on your next visits, sometimes just being good and humble is enough to earn you the confidence of the servers.
7. Go Paleo
Eating out is a complicated experience if you do not know the healthy foods to take and the unhealthy foods you should consider avoiding. When eating out, avoid refined carbohydrates present in pasta and rice.
It is also important to consider avoiding foods with unhealthy ingredients such as added sugars and cheese.
Instead, take more vegetables and healthy meats. It is believed that vegetables play a key role in preventing diabetes, cancer, obesity, and other diseases. While veggies are not a favorite for everyone, they are a sure way to keep your body weight and overall health in check.
8. Take Salad To Fill Up
Healthy salads are a perfect option for starting your meals, but you must ensure that you know how to choose properly. Salads with raw seeds or nuts, raw vegetables, and greens are healthy and should form the starters for every meal you take in a restaurant.
In addition, you can opt for vinegar and oil dressing separately to enable you to control the amount you consume.
Dressings are high on fat and calorie content. Avoid running into trouble by avoiding salads containing sliced meats, crispy chicken, bacon, croutons, and dressings that are high on sugar. This way, you easily control the nutritional value of the foods you take.
9. Consider Healthy Swaps
Swaps and sides effectively help to control the balance of the meals you choose. For example, many people do not select enough veggies and fruits. Vegetables contain few calories but are high in nutritional fiber and vitamins, and are exceptionally great swaps.
To boost your vegetable intake, swap fries or potatoes that form part of your meal for additional salads or vegetables. Again, instead of rice under a curry, ask for it over heathy vegetables such as spinach or broccoli.
Swaps help you to focus on enjoying the main dish while skipping unhealthier parts such as chips and tortillas among others.
10. Avoid The Soup
Soups are great but restaurant soups are over-spiced. They are loaded with unhealthy cream, cheese, and butter, among other ingredients to give it a better taste and a velvety texture characteristic of restaurant soups. Go for broth-based soup or just skip altogether.
11. Ignore The Bread Basket
The bread basket contains empty calories and is the worst way to fill up when you are out for dinner. While they are highly tempting, it is one part of a meal that you should avoid altogether and either consider salad or just wait for your meal.
12. Moderate Alcohol
You can still have a sociable dinner without beer. However, if you choose to take alcohol then dark beer, red wine, and light colored alcoholic drinks with mixers such as fresh lime are better options over sugary cocktails and mixers. However, whatever drink you choose, take it in moderation.
The caloric content in alcoholic is high and will add a considerable number of calories to your diet.
13. Skip Sugary Drinks
Sugary and caffeinated drinks contain lots of calories. Do not drink your calories, eat them! Instead of processed fruit juices and soda, water is a safer option.
Drink water at the beginning and throughout your meal to help you fill up. This shields you from overeating and lowers chances of dinner going downhill.
14. Share The Main Meal
Portion sizes is another core tip to consider when you want to eat healthy while eating out. While portion sizes in most restaurants are currently massive and can be overwhelming, it is so easy to eat everything when it is in front of you.
To avoid the possibility of consuming the whole load, you can consider these two options.
Firstly, share the main dish with a friend or colleague. If you are not a fan of sharing food, then you can consider creating a reasonable portion size by splitting your main course in half and saving the rest for later.
15. Analyze Your Entire Diet
Finally, your eating out trends should strike harmony with your entire dietary plan and see how it fits within your overall diet. While it is obviously important to be careful how you eat while out, you will occasionally want to indulge in a favorite or have some dessert.
Whether it is healthy or not, this is not entirely wrong as long as all the essential factors within your diet are put into consideration.
What Should You Order?
Though there is no single answer to this common question, a number of options are still exemplary and will put most of your worries to rest. Depending on your taste and preference, grilled fish served with tomato slices or grilled chicken are good options at your common burger joints.
For people who love Chinese food, brown rice, steamed chicken, and sautéed chicken are favorite options. Do not feel so restricted to think that you have to order only a specific dish anytime you eat out.
You will find lots of healthy foods out there if you take the necessary precautions and make your choices without distraction.
Healthy Restaurant Eating Tips Conclusion
Eating healthy when ordering from restaurants and diners is challenging and requires a lot of preparation and sufficient information about the menu and the restaurant. But after proper research on the restaurant, menu, food preparation, and service it is entire possible and even simple to achieve.