*This post was written by Francine Labiran from Fit Life With Fran.
Going out to eat is always a fun experience. You don’t have to worry about cooking, and it’s usually all about hanging out and catching up with your friends and family. Plus, going out to restaurants always allows you to try new, different things you might normally not cook at home.
But sometimes don’t you wonder – how much butter, salt or sugar is in your dish to make it to taste “soooooo good”? It can often be a struggle and seem like a battle between ordering what is healthy and what will taste good.
Unfortunately, more often than not, many restaurants amp up the flavor of their dishes with ingredients or measurements that we also wouldn’t use at home, including tons of salt, extra fat, and all around unhealthy preparations. If you’re trying to eat healthy, going out can feel like a lost cause. But trust me it doesn’t have to be. Just set a plan using these 6 tips for healthy dining out and you can get all the flavor and still make your dining out experience healthier.
Ask Questions, Be Bold
This first tip is key. If you’re unsure how an ingredient on a menu is prepared, don’t be afraid to ask. For example, getting an item grilled will always be a better option than getting it fried, and steamed veggies are better than sautéed veggies, but menus don’t always tell us how things are prepared up front. So, ask your server before you make your final choice. And, go ahead and ask that your meal be prepared a certain way (with steamed veggies instead of sautéed, etc.). Most of the time, chefs are happy to adapt in order to make you happy.
Pay Close Attention to The “Healthy Dining” Salad Options
Starting off your meal with a salad can be a great option that will help you to eat less overall. Or, maybe you’re even making the salad your main course. While there are plenty of extremely nutritious options in the salad section of the menu, they can also unfortunately be filled with less-than-healthy dining options like tons of cheese, fried or breaded ingredients, and creamy dressings or more dressing than you need.
Look at the salad’s description and ingredients before giving it a try, and see if you can have it adapted to be healthier, while still fulfilling your wants. You can ask for your dressing on the side and try opting for a light, vinaigrette-style or balsamic dressing. Next try scanning the other salads on the menu in case there’s a chance you can add nuts or seeds for a healthy crunch.
Skip Cocktail Hour
To be honest, this tip can be a hard thing to do- after all, going out should be a fun time to relax! But think about it this way, ordering those exciting fancy drinks from most restaurant menus is actually like ordering a dessert before your meal even gets to the table. Most are filled with sugar and fat and they’ll set you back several hundred calories. If you want to order a drink, but don’t want the unhealthy drawbacks, go for a glass of wine or sub the soda and high sugary juices for fresh squeezed juice (i.e. lime) or club soda to your cocktail. Your body will thank you for it later!
Double Or Triple Your Veggie Order
Often times at a restaurant, the focus of the entree is on a piece of meat, or a giant potato/starch of some kind, with a few veggies tossed on the plate. Next time you order an entree, ask for double, or even triple the veggies. By adding more vegetables to your plate, you can eat those first, and you’ll likely feel fuller by the time you get to the the “meat and potatoes” of your meal, of your meal, causing you to eat less.
Only Eat ½ From The Start
So, you probably read this tip and rolled your eyes. Am I right? Well often times, restaurant portion sizes are usually enough for two people. If you don’t want to sacrifice one of your favorite meals at your favorite restaurants, why not eat half now and save half for later? When you place your order, ask your server to immediately box up half of it, before it even gets to the table. You’ll be surprised that you’ll likely still feel satisfied after consuming just half of the portion, and you’ll have an entire extra meal for the next day!
Say No To or Make A Plan for The Bread Basket
Many restaurants will graciously offer some type of bread basket before your meal arrives. It can seem like a great deal, and sort of a “built in” appetizer, but oftentimes these bread baskets can get refilled two or three times before your meal arrives, because you and your dining partners keep reaching for more as you wait. It can lead to mindless eating, and before your meal even comes, you’ve already eaten a substantial amount of carbs and calories.
It can be difficult to limit yourself to just one small piece of bread when a whole basket is sitting right in front of you. So, if you know you tend to give into temptation easily, either move the basket away from you or ask your waiter to avoid bringing out the bread altogether.
From your past experiences, it may seem impossible to stay on track with your diet while eating out. But planning ahead and implementing a few of these 6 helpful tips will help you make better choices while still enjoying your time out. Cheers to a healthy lifestyle that works for you!
Francine Labiran is a Health and Fitness Blogger at fitlifewithfran.com. She’s an Atlanta native, healthy foodie, running coach for Girls on the Run, modern dancer and barre class lover. Her goal is to inspire women all around the world to embrace the body they’re in and be the healthiest and happiest person possible. On her site and social media, she shares daily recipes, workouts, and healthy living tips.