Are you someone who loves dining out but struggles to stay on track with your healthy eating goals? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! It can be challenging to choose nutritious options when faced with tempting menus and delicious aromas. However, with a little bit of planning and some simple strategies, you can still enjoy dining out without sabotaging your progress. In this article, we will explore practical tips and tricks to help you stay on track when eating out, so you can enjoy your meals guilt-free while staying true to your health and wellness goals.
Choose the restaurant wisely
When it comes to staying on track with your healthy eating goals while dining out, the first step is to choose the restaurant wisely. Look for restaurants that offer a variety of healthy options and have a reputation for using fresh ingredients. Avoid fast-food chains or restaurants known for their large portion sizes and unhealthy menu items. By selecting a restaurant that aligns with your goals, you set yourself up for success before you even arrive.
Look up the menu online
Before heading to the restaurant, take some time to look up the menu online. Most restaurants nowadays have their menus available on their websites or social media pages. Reviewing the menu in advance allows you to make informed decisions about what to order, taking into consideration your dietary preferences and any specific restrictions you may have. By familiarizing yourself with the menu beforehand, you can avoid spontaneous and potentially unhealthy choices once you’re seated.
Have a healthy snack beforehand
One effective strategy to prevent overeating and making unhealthy choices when dining out is to have a healthy snack beforehand. If you arrive at the restaurant feeling excessively hungry, it’s more likely that you’ll be tempted by high-calorie or indulgent options. By having a small, protein-rich snack such as a handful of nuts or Greek yogurt before heading out, you’ll arrive at the restaurant feeling satisfied but not overly hungry. This can help you make smarter menu choices and keep your portions in check.
Make smart menu choices
Opt for grilled or baked dishes
When perusing the menu, opt for dishes that are grilled or baked instead of fried. Grilling or baking your food reduces the amount of added fats and oils, resulting in a healthier meal. Grilled chicken, fish, or vegetables can be flavorful and satisfying options while keeping your caloric intake and fat consumption in check.
Choose lean protein options
Aim to incorporate lean protein into your meal whenever possible. White-meat poultry, such as chicken or turkey, lean cuts of meat like pork tenderloin or sirloin, and fish are all great choices. These protein sources are lower in saturated fats compared to red meat, and they provide essential nutrients to support muscle development and repair.
Select whole grain options
When it comes to carbohydrates, opt for whole grain options. Choose dishes that include brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta instead of refined grains. Whole grains are higher in fiber and contain more nutrients compared to their refined counterparts, helping you feel fuller for longer and providing sustained energy throughout the day.
Avoid fried or breaded foods
Fried and breaded foods are often high in unhealthy fats and calories. French fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets, and fried appetizers should be avoided when trying to make healthy choices. Opt for grilled, roasted, or steamed dishes instead to reduce your intake of unhealthy fats and excess calories.
Opt for salads or vegetable-based dishes
Salads or vegetable-based dishes can be a great way to incorporate more nutrients and fiber into your meal. Opt for salads that include a variety of colorful vegetables, lean proteins, and a light dressing on the side. If you’re not in the mood for a salad, consider ordering a vegetable stir-fry, a roasted vegetable medley, or a vegetarian entree. These options can satisfy your hunger while providing essential vitamins and minerals.
Ask for dressings and sauces on the side
One common pitfall when dining out is the excessive use of dressings and sauces, which can be high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars. To stay on track, ask for dressings and sauces to be served on the side. This way, you have more control over the amount you use and can choose to dip your fork into the dressing before taking a bite, rather than drowning your food in it.
Control portion sizes
Share an entree
Many restaurants serve oversized portions, far exceeding what the average person needs in a single meal. To avoid overeating, consider sharing an entree with your dining companion. Not only will this help keep your portion sizes in check, but it can also be a cost-effective solution. Look for dishes marked as “shareable” or ask your server if they can accommodate sharing.
Ask for a smaller portion
If sharing an entree isn’t an option, don’t hesitate to ask your server if the restaurant offers smaller portion sizes. Some restaurants are willing to accommodate special requests, and ordering a smaller portion can help you stay within your calorie and portion goals. Alternatively, you can request the server to pack up half of your meal to take home before it even arrives at the table, allowing you to enjoy your favorite dish without overindulging.
Box up half your meal for later
Even if you don’t share an entree or request a smaller portion, you can still take control of your portion sizes by boxing up half of your meal for later. As soon as your meal arrives, divide it in half and set aside the portion you wish to enjoy now. By doing so, you prevent the temptation to overeat and have a delicious meal waiting for you the next day.
Be mindful of drinks
Choose water or unsweetened beverages
When it comes to choosing beverages while dining out, opt for water or unsweetened beverages. Water is always the best choice as it’s calorie-free and helps keep you hydrated. If you’re craving something more flavorful, try unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water, or herbal tea. Avoid sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices, and energy drinks, as they can contribute to unnecessary calories and added sugars.
Avoid sugary cocktails or sodas
Cocktails and sodas can pack a significant amount of calories and added sugars. If you choose to have a cocktail, opt for a lighter option like a vodka soda with a splash of citrus or a glass of wine. Be mindful of portion sizes and try to pace yourself to avoid excessive alcohol consumption. When it comes to sodas, opt for diet or low-calorie options if you must have one, but again, water is always the best choice.
Limit alcohol consumption
While it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a drink or two while dining out, it’s important to be mindful of your alcohol consumption. Alcoholic beverages can add up quickly in terms of calories and can also impair your judgment when it comes to making healthy food choices. Set limits for yourself and try to alternate alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic options to stay hydrated and in control.
Control the extras
Skip the bread basket
When you sit down at a restaurant, it’s common to be greeted with a basket of bread or rolls. However, these seemingly innocent starters can be a major source of extra calories and carbohydrates. To avoid temptation, politely decline the bread basket or ask the server to remove it from the table. This way, you won’t be mindlessly snacking on bread while waiting for your meal.
Avoid adding extra cheese or condiments
While cheese and condiments can add flavor to your dishes, they can also contribute to excess calories, unhealthy fats, and sodium. If you choose to have cheese on your meal, ask for a smaller amount or have it served on the side so that you have control over how much you add. The same goes for condiments like mayo, ketchup, or salad dressings – use them sparingly or ask for them on the side.
Limit butter or oil usage
When dining out, be mindful of the amount of butter or oil used in your dishes. While some fat is necessary for flavor and satiety, excessive amounts can quickly add up in terms of calories. If possible, ask for dishes to be cooked with minimal added fats or oils. Additionally, be cautious when ordering foods that are described as “buttery” or “cream-based,” as they are likely to be higher in calories and unhealthy fats.
Manage dessert temptations
Share a dessert
If you have a sweet tooth and can’t resist the temptation of dessert, consider sharing a dessert with your dining companion. This allows you to satisfy your craving while keeping portion sizes in check. Choose something that you both enjoy and savor each bite. Sharing a dessert can also be a fun way to bond with your dining companion while being mindful of your overall calorie intake.
Choose fruit-based desserts
If you’re looking for healthier dessert options, choose fruit-based desserts when available. Fresh fruit salads, sorbets, or grilled fruit can provide natural sweetness without the added sugars and unhealthy fats found in many traditional desserts. Alternatively, you can also opt for a small serving of dark chocolate, which can satisfy your sweet tooth while providing some health benefits.
Opt for smaller portion sizes or healthier alternatives
If fruit-based desserts aren’t available or don’t appeal to you, consider opting for smaller portion sizes or healthier alternatives. Many restaurants now offer mini desserts or dessert samplers, which allow you to indulge in a sweet treat without going overboard. Another option is to look for desserts made with alternative ingredients like almond flour or stevia, which can provide a healthier twist on classic favorites.
Walk or bike to the restaurant
One way to incorporate physical activity into your dining out experience is to walk or bike to the restaurant. If the restaurant is within a reasonable distance, consider leaving your car at home and enjoying a leisurely walk or bike ride to and from the restaurant. Not only does this help burn calories, but it also adds an element of enjoyment to your overall dining experience.
Take a stroll after your meal
After enjoying your meal, take a leisurely stroll to aid digestion and burn some extra calories. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or exploring a nearby park, moving your body post-meal can help prevent feelings of heaviness and promote a sense of well-being. Plus, it’s an opportunity to spend quality time with your dining companion or simply enjoy some fresh air.
Practice mindful eating
Slow down and savor each bite
Practicing mindful eating involves slowing down and savoring each bite. Take the time to appreciate the flavors, textures, and aromas of your meal. Chew your food thoroughly and pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. By eating slowly and mindfully, you not only enhance your dining experience but also give your brain the opportunity to register feelings of satisfaction, preventing overeating.
Stop eating when you’re satisfied
Listen to your body’s signals of satiety and stop eating when you’re satisfied, but not overly full. It’s easy to get caught up in finishing your plate or indulging in dessert simply because it’s there. However, being in tune with your body’s needs is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship with food and preventing overeating. Remember, you can always save leftovers for later or enjoy dessert on another occasion.
Avoid emotional eating
Find alternative ways to cope with emotions
Eating out can be a social and enjoyable experience, but it’s important to be mindful of emotional eating triggers. Instead of turning to food as a source of comfort or distraction when feeling stressed or upset, find alternative ways to cope with your emotions. Take a deep breath, practice meditation or mindfulness techniques, engage in a hobby or physical activity, or reach out to a trusted friend or family member for support.
Pause and reflect before ordering
Before placing your order, take a moment to pause and reflect on your emotions and reasons for dining out. Are you truly hungry, or are you seeking comfort or distraction? By taking a moment to check in with yourself, you can make more conscious choices that align with your mindful eating goals. If you’re not truly hungry, consider postponing the meal or finding a non-food-related activity to address your emotional needs.
Discuss your goals with dining companions
When dining out with friends or family, don’t be afraid to discuss your goals and intentions regarding healthy eating. Sharing your commitment to staying on track can help you gain support from those around you, and they may even be inspired to make healthier choices themselves. Having a support system can make a significant difference in your ability to stick to your goals while still enjoying social outings.
Join a healthy eating or weight loss group
If you find it challenging to stay on track while dining out, consider joining a healthy eating or weight loss group. These groups provide a sense of community, accountability, and valuable tips and advice from others who are on the same journey. Sharing your experiences, struggles, and successes with a group can help you stay motivated and learn new strategies for maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
In conclusion, staying on track with your healthy eating goals while dining out is absolutely possible. With a little planning and mindfulness, you can enjoy delicious meals and social experiences without sabotaging your efforts. Choose restaurants wisely, make smart menu choices, control portion sizes, be mindful of your drink selections, manage extras, practice mindful eating, avoid emotional eating, stay active, and seek support. By incorporating these strategies into your dining out routine, you can continue to progress towards your health and wellness goals while still enjoying the experience of dining out. Remember, it’s all about balance and making choices that nourish both your body and your enjoyment of life.