Ever wondered if it’s possible to eat healthy on a night out? Here are ten easy tips to help make dining out, whether at a restaurant or a fast food place, a healthier experience for you.
How often have you thought, “I’ll just grab something on the way home instead of cooking tonight?” Apparently many of us are doing this, since the National Restaurant Association reports that the average American eats out an average of four times a week.
But what you grab and how it is cooked can make a big difference in your health. We often choose those “fast meals” as a time to splurge and to consume more calories and fat than normal. Is it possible, though, to eat out, and not send a diet or our health into a tailspin?
That depends on several things, including such things as the choice of where you eat out (menus at fast food restaurants tend to be high in calories, fat and salt, and low in vitamins, nutrients, and fiber). But even at restaurants, the rich dishes and hefty plates can make healthy eating difficult.
So how can the busy person who is grabbing lunch out or taking dinner home enjoy good taste and still eat healthy?
Here are ten tips that can help.
1) Plan ahead: think about your personal diet goals and try to find ways to meet them. You can plan your menu to include a salad and fresh fruit, for example. You can also bring a light snack such as lowfat yogurt or crackers to eat before going out so you won’t be as hungry (and tempted to overeat rich foods) at lunch or dinner.
2) Try small changes that can make a big difference calorie and fat wise, such as ordering mustard instead of mayo on a sandwich, or ordering sauces and salad dressing on the side (so you can control how much you use).
3) Try to go to a restaurant that offers healthier choices. Try the baked, grilled, poached, broiled, or steamed items instead of deep fried. Often, even at “fast food” diners, there are more menu options today that include salads and grilled items.
4) Eat slowly, and enjoy the conversation. Take time to chew slowly and enjoy the taste of the food.
5) Watch out for high fat and calorie appetizers, such as fried cheese sticks, chips, or bread. Instead, try a salad or vegetable soup, and move the chips away from you to avoid temptation.
6) Smaller portions can help. Don’t order “supersize”, and at a sit down restaurant, don’t eat the whole meal. Restaurant meals tend to be larger than those we eat at home, and it’s okay to leave some on your plate (you can always have it wrapped “to go” and make another meal of the leftovers). If you can choose, order “small” or “junior” portion sizes for less calories and fat.
7) Be careful at salad bars. Some of the items offered are high calorie and high fat, and you can create a salad (with a muffin side) that has more calories than a burger and fries if you aren’t cautious. Toppings such as nuts, chow mein noodles, potato or pasta salad, cheese, bacon bits, olives, croutons and salad dressing are calorie and fat filled and should be avoided or used sparingly. Instead, pile on the fresh vegetables and use low-fat dressing.
8) Cut down on fat. Try low-fat milk instead of cream or regular milk in your latte; trim the fat from meat or take the skin off of chicken.
9) Try substituting side dishes: a baked potato or salad instead of French fries, or vegetable soup instead of creamed. Ask for steamed vegetables, and ask that butter or margarine not be added.
10) Skip dessert, or choose a low-fat main meal if you know you are going to be splurging on a special treat. Fresh fruit, angel food cake, or Italian ices make a lighter dessert choice. Dessert can also be shared with friends and family for a smaller portion size.
Finally, after eating, try walking or exercising to help work off some of the extra calories.
With these tips, you should be able to make eating out a healthier experience for you, without having to give up social times with friends and family.