Sometimes I just don't want to think about cooking dinner - that's when the siren song of the restaurant calls my name. The thought of someone else handling dinner preparations (and clean up!) is just wonderful on those busy days. But, when you are working on making healthy dietary lifestyle changes, that siren song can feel more like a death knell. There are a few things you can do to stay on course even when dining out - here are 7 simple tips for making healthy choices at restaurants.
Simple tips for making healthy choices at restaurants
Eating healthy when you go out isn’t as challenging as it used to be. Many restaurants are aware of the current dietary trends and have added several healthy options to their menus, so it's easier to choose better options when dining out. But sometimes those healthy options just aren't there. Even if you're eating at a place that isn't as 'diet friendly' there are a few things you can do. These 7 simple tips for making healthy choices at restaurants will come in handy.
Make sure you aren't starving
It can be so easy to go-go-go all day, and totally forget to eat. It happens to me all the time, and by the time I realize I am hungry, I am so hungry I could eat an entire cow. Of course, you can see how this wouldn’t pan out well at a restaurant. If you go out to eat, make sure you have eaten throughout the day, and that you will only be slightly hungry when ordering your food.
This is especially important for avoiding that bread basket. If you go to the restaurant ready to eat everything in sight, that bread will look awfully tempting. Avoid temptation by eating regular meals at normal hours (also great for keeping blood sugar at good levels!).
Check the menu online
Before you even leave the house you can do a little research. Check out the restaurant and menu online so you are prepared with a few healthy options. Sometimes websites offer more details about nutritional value and ingredients than the menu in the restaurant.
Eat a salad for an appetizer
Instead of ordering an appetizer, ask for a salad instead. Avoid the salad dressings, ask for oil and vinegar, and skip the croutons, but all-in-all a salad is one of the best options. If there's a salad bar, load up your salad with veggies and your favorite healthy toppings.
Choose a good protein source
If you go to a restaurant that isn’t serving healthy options, try to distinguish the healthy options by protein source and how the food is cooked. Grilled meats and poultry are going to be by far the best option when choosing a healthy option. Ask your server about any hidden ingredients in sauces if you need to restrict certain foods. Try to avoid breaded and deep fried foods.
Ask for a vegetable side dish
After deciding on your protein source, ask about switching out the side dish. Most restaurants will offer a few side dish options or accommodate your needs. Skip the fries and starchy sides and ask for some veggies. If you eat a salad for your appetizer and add a vegetable side dish you've easily added 2-3 vegetable servings to your meal.
Choose the right beverage
Regardless of eating out, drinking 7-8 glasses of water a day is good for you, but it can be really useful when eating out as well. If you drink a full glass of water before going out, you won’t be as hungry when you get there allowing you to focus on choosing a healthier meal. While at the restaurant, choose water instead of soda or sugary drinks.
Choose one small indulgence
You're eating out and you should enjoy not having to cook or clean up the dishes! Choose a small way to indulge while still sticking to your plan. I don't mean that you should have a huge soda, a deep fried appetizer, and an indulgent dessert. Choose one smallindulgence that you can enjoy while still following your dietary plan. Perhaps it's a piece of dark chocolate you have stashed away in your bag or that after dinner drink. Pick one thing and enjoy it - let go of the guilt!
How do you choose healthier options when dining out?
One more quick tip - check the menu for a 'healthy options' section - many restaurants now offer a special selection for different dietary needs. The key is not to be tempted by your taste buds and stick to your healthy choices. What other tips have helped you make healthy choices at restaurants?