No matter what your wellness goals are, dining out can have a major impact on the success of those goals. One dinner out can set you back a whole week. However, with a little thoughtful planning you can dine out without derailing all your hard work! Here are a few key tips to keep in mind while eating out.
Read the Menu Before You Go
If possible, whether you’re familiar with the menu or not, reading the menu before you arrive at the restaurant will allow you to make healthier decisions. The smell of food or choices others from your group are making may alter your decision when you’re at the table. With a pre-selected meal, you will have had a chance to thoughtfully think about how your meal will fit into your day.
Drink Water Before & During Your Meal
Drinking water prior and during your meal helps to create a feeling of fullness. This is a great way to avoid overeating. Portion control and meeting water intake goals are a great way to stay on track.
Determine How Food is Prepared
The way food is prepared will determine the amount of calories it contains. Foods that are steamed, baked, or roasted generally contain less butters and oils, allowing them to be lower in fat and calories. Foods listed on the menu as pan-fried, deep fried, crispy, crunchy or sautéed usually contain more batter and oils increasing their calorie content. You can always ask for substitutions, for example, instead of pan fried vegetables ask for roasted.
Avoid All-You-Can-Eat Buffets
People often overlook portion sizes, when eating out try avoiding all you can eat options and buffets. If however, you are dining out at a buffet or pot-lock, studies show those that use a smaller plate eat less. Filling half your plate with a big green salad topped with an oil-based dressing is also a great way to keep calories low.
Make A Healthy Swap
Vegetables like spinach and romaine contain a mere 10-15 calories per cup and provide numerous health benefits! Incorporating fresh fruits or vegetables into your meal will help fill you up and keep you full. Swapping some of your meal for these items can offer tremendous health benefits without the guilt.
Ask for Sauces or Dressings on the Side
Sauces and dressings can add a lot of extra fat and calories to a dish, so ask for your sauce on the side. For example, two tablespoons of ranch salad dressing will add an extra 140 calories and 16 grams of fat to your meal. Choosing oil and vinegar instead will provide you with numerous health benefits with half the calories.
Skip Pre-Dinner Bread Baskets and Rolls
If you’re at a restaurant that provides complimentary rolls, breads or other carbs you could just skip them all-together by asking you server not to bring them. When you’re out with friends, you could order a small side of soup or salad before the meal. This swap will save you calories without the sacrifice.
Be Mindful of Beverage Choices
If having alcohol at dinner, avoid sugary drinks, cocktails with artificial fruit flavorings and sodas. These calories add up fast. Try opting for a glass of wine or a light lager. If choosing hard liqueur, be mindful when selecting mixers. Club soda, tonic water and lime juice provide very little calories yet taste great.
Think About Your Diet as a Whole
When making decisions about food and beverages, try to think of your diet as a whole, rather than just that immediate meal or snack. We eat 3 meals a day and sometimes 2 to 3 snacks, making a total of 35 meal choices per week. Making most of those 35 meals healthy, thoughtful choices will leave room for some indulgence.