Eating at home definitely gives you more control over the ingredients and foods that you eat compared with eating out. However, eating out is a fun and often social event that you shouldn’t avoid (limit, perhaps, but avoid…definitely not!)
Occasionally, I will talk to people that have the mindset that they’ve “blown their diet” for the day if they eat out. This mentality often leads to further poor choices. I truly believe that a healthy lifestyle can include eating out occasionally! I’ve tried to put together some tips that you can apply across the board at a variety of restaurants when you dine out.
Tips for Making Better Choices When Eating Out
- Don’t overeat. This is probably the most important tip and honestly, even if you disregarded every other tip below, but you ate a completely appropriate amount, you could count that as a plus. One of the biggest problems with dining out in our culture is the ridiculously oversized portions we consume. Before you even take your first bite, take the time to plan out an appropriate portion size and separate this from the rest of your food so that you know when to stop.
- Read the description of the foods very closely.
- Avoid processed foods, including processed cheeses (think American and Velveeta) and processed meats (e.g. salami, pepperoni, and other deli meats).
- Opt for meats that are baked or grilled.
- Avoid fried foods whether it be meats, French fries, or other vegetables.
- If you order a salad, make sure it’s a good choice by doing the following:
- Always order the dressing on the side and don’t use all of it! I usually don’t even eat 1/2 of the dressing provided. Oil and vinegar is a great choice for salad dressing if they have it. Otherwise, you could opt for some kind of vinaigrette.
- Request a small amount of cheese and consider leaving half your croutons behind. So often I’ve ordered salads and they come out PILED with cheese and croutons. I definitely believe in moderation and a salad that mostly consists of cheese and croutons is excessive.
- When you are able to choose the restaurant, choose a place that you know serves healthier options. However, it’s important to remember most of these restaurants also have less healthy choices, so you still have to be intentional and make good choices while you’re there. Some of my favorite options include:
- Jason’s Deli
- Panera Bread
- Attempt to follow the same ideals that you do when cooking at home.
- Stick to whole, unprocessed food as much as possible.
- Choose whole grains when available. Look for options such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and 100% whole wheat.
- It’s always a good idea to include more vegetables.
- Create a balanced meal which includes a protein, carb, and fat source.
- Skip the dessert! Save dessert for really special occasions: birthdays, anniversary, holidays, etc.
- Remember, you can always ask how something is cooked or what it is made of if you are unsure. You may want to ask what a sauce is made of or what kind of oil is used. You can also ask for substitutions. If there is a salad that looks delicious, but is served with fried chicken don’t be afraid to ask for grilled chicken instead. Most restaurants are more than happy to accommodate these kinds of requests. Ask and you shall receive!
- Last, but certainly not least, if you order something you regret or eat too much don’t let it affect you negatively. Strive to recognize what you’ve done, how it made you feel, and make a plan to do better next time. However, don’t let it to derail you into making poor choices the rest of the day or week. One less than optimal meal is not going to wreck your health, just as one meal loaded with superfoods won’t make you healthy.