13 Simple Tips to Eat Healthy When You’re Eating Out
Whether you’re on a diet to lose weight or following a healthy eating plan for other reasons, eating healthy when eating out calls for both common sense and willpower.
Many studies and surveys will tell you that eating out on the regular is associated with poor dietary choices and overeating, which is why people who eat out often are more likely to gain weight. There’s a simple reason for that—the food you eat in restaurants is almost always nutritionally inferior to the food you cook at home, but it’s delicious so you eat more than you should.
Tips to Eat Healthy When Eating Out
But you don’t have to let a restaurant meal—no matter how delicious—sabotage your diet. You can find healthy options on any menu, if you know what to look for. With some simple tips like planning ahead and making the right choices, you can evade a binge-eating session, and stay true to your diet.
Here are some simple tips you should follow to eat healthy when eating out.
1. Check the menu out beforehand.
If you know where you’re going to eat, it’s worth looking up the restaurant’s menu online. Choose a meal that’s suited to your diet plan, and order exactly that when you get to the restaurant. You’re more likely to make impulsive and unhealthy choices when you’re hungry or distracted.
2. Read between the lines.
Read menus carefully. Getting familiar with culinary terms and cooking basics can help you spot unhealthy foods. Avoid items described as “crispy,” “creamy,” and “rich.” They are most likely full of fat and/or deep fried. Steamed, boiled, grilled, and baked foods are your best bet. They contain healthier ingredients, and have lower calorie and fat content.
3. Eat a small snack before you leave.
If you’re prone to overeating, you should consider eating a small snack before you get to the restaurant. If you turn up to a restaurant hungry, it’s likely you’ll overeat. Snack on some veggies or nuts before you leave the house.
4. Forgo the bread basket.
Ask your server to skip the bread basket. If you need to munch on something while you wait for your food, ask for a plate of crudités or bread sticks. Snacking on bread before a meal will significantly increase your calorie intake, and lead to a carb overload by the end of the meal.
5. Skip sugary drinks.
Milkshakes and sodas can add a significant number of calories to your meal. If you must drink boozy beverages, skip the piña coladas and mojitos. These drinks, although delicious, are loaded with sugar and packed with a lot of calories. Instead, opt for a glass of wine, a martini, vodka on the rocks, or a light beer. Limit your intake to no more than two drinks.
6. Practise portion control.
For portion control to work, you need to practise it outside your home. Self-control is difficult, especially when you have a tempting plate of food before you. The best way to prevent overeating is by ordering half portions or kids’ meals. You might consider an appetizer as a meal, or share your main course with your companion. You’re not obliged to finish your entire meal. If you’re feeling stuffed, simply ask to take your leftovers home.
7. Make healthy swaps.
You can be assertive and ask for healthier alternatives at a restaurant without coming across as rude or annoying. Just make sure you ask the server to swap part of your meal when you place the order, not when the food arrives.
Swap fries or potatoes for vegetables or salad, rice for bean sprouts, mashed potatoes for cauliflower mash. With healthy swaps you’ll boost your fibre intake, and lower your carbohydrate and fat intake.
8. Watch your sodium intake.
A diet high in salt can lead to bloating, hypertension, and other health conditions. Restaurant meals can be very high in sodium. Choose fewer foods that have been smoked or made with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Look for “light” versions of these sauces and ask for them to be served on the side. Find out how to spot foods high in sodium.
9. Skip the add-ons.
The greatest portion of calories you consume when you eat out come from sides, sauces, and toppings. Mayonnaise, bacon, cheese, fries, and cream-based sauces are enticing, but pack a lot of calories and fat. Skip your sides or replace them with a salad. Sauces and dressings are particularly high in calories and fats, so ask for your sauce on the side and take only what you need.
10. Choose tomato-based sauces over creamy ones
Unlike cream and cheese sauces, tomato and vegetable-based sauces aren’t loaded with fat. Opting for tomato-based sauces can help you keep your meal on the lighter side, while getting more nutrition out of your meal. The same goes for dips; salsa is a healthier choice than blue cheese or sour cream. Choose wisely.
11. Eat mindfully.
How you eat can significantly influence how much you eat. Eating mindfully makes you more conscious about what you consume, and is a great way to improve self-control.
Research shows that focusing on your food and chewing more can help you consume less. In fact, a study shows that people who eat fast are roughly 115 per cent more likely to be overweight, compared to those who eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal that you’re full, so eating slowly helps you avoid those extra calories that you don’t really need.
12. Skip dessert.
Desserts can carry as many calories as mains, so it’s wise to skip it when you eat out. You can always eat some fruit or dark chocolate when you get home, and it’s a lot healthier than a slice of rich chocolate cake or a large scoop of full-fat ice cream. Forgo dessert and order a black coffee instead.
13. Don’t sweat it.
If you do indulge when you’re eating out, don’t beat yourself up over it. After a less-than-healthy meal, take a walk around your neighbourhood, or exercise particular hard the next day. Healthy eating is a lifelong commitment, and it’s all too common to slip up sometimes. What’s important is that you constantly strive to improve your dietary habits and choices, and continue on your path to good health.
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