Healthy Tips For Eating Out
Eating out generally falls into two categories, it’s either spontaneous or planned out. If you know tips that can help you in both of these scenarios, then you’ll have a much higher success rate of not blowing your healthy diet goals.
These 15 healthy tips for eating out will help you navigate any situation while socializing, traveling, special occasions, or just plain needing to eat while you’re doing errands.
1. Planning Ahead
This is one of the most important strategies you can apply to eat healthy while dining out. If you plan ahead for your dinner or social engagement at a restaurant, then you can preview the menu online.
In addition to reviewing the menu, you can also call to ask questions regarding the restaurant’s sourcing practices. Where are they getting their food from? How is it made? What’s their overall food philosophy? Make sure you can view the nutritional values in the ingredients, such as fat, sugar, carbs, etc. that will keep you in a healthy range.
Previewing the menu online or even calling ahead, is a great way to plan and familiarize yourself with the restaurant’s food choices. When you arrive at the restaurant you can be prepared and then it’s up to you to stick to the plan. It’s also less pressure to already know ahead of time what you will order and you can relax while everyone else mulls over the menu.
If you are going to be attending a social gathering, you can always ask the host what foods they will have available so you can think ahead of time what you will eat or you can also just set your mind ahead of time that you will be eating mostly low-fat meats, huge amounts of salad and snack on fruits and vegies and anything else that presents itself as low fat.
2. Have a snack before you arrive
You know the saying, “don’t go grocery shopping while you’re hungry”. Well, the same applies to you when you go out to eat, go to a party, or any social gathering around food. It’s so easy to entertain the “eat everything in sight” mentality when you’re looking at a king’s table type layout before you and it’s worse if you are incredibly hungry.
Eating a healthy snack before hand will help curb your appetite. Something that is rich in fiber, ora low-fat protein food will be a good start. Some people have had success by eating a hardboiled egg with veggies and hummus, or perhaps a half serving of a protein shake and a handful of nuts, or fiber-rich crackers with some avocado.
3. Water, Water, Water!
Did you know sometimes what we think is hunger, is actually just thirst? Feeling thirsty and feeling hungry can sometimes feel very similar. The next time you’re hungry, try drinking a large glass of water, waiting for 15 minutes, and checking in with yourself again about your hunger. Drinking warm water, if you can, is also great to help things move along in which helps in the long run for weight maintenance.
This is a great exercise to do in general, but especially when you’re in social situations where the mind-body connection can become muted with distractions (i.e. great conversations, alcohol, etc.).
Be sure to order a glass of water and keep it filled. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your meal to make sure you’re hydrated and not eating more food when it’s really just water your body is after.
4. Vegetables are your friend
Vegetables are excellent sources of fiber and we know fiber keeps us fuller for longer. By making vegetables the center of your meal when eating out, can ensure you’re getting enough fiber in your meal that’ll keep you full, maintain a good blood sugar balance, and can prevent you from overeating.
When you’re eating out whether pre-planned or on the fly, you can always scan the menu for a main vegetable dish or you can ask for a double of the vegetables with your main dish. You can also ask for a vegetable replacement or salad mixings on your plate, instead of the rice (carbs) or anything else you see that your main dish comes with that could blow your diet out the window. A vegetable-rich soup is always a good choice, and making sure you are served a salad first before your main entrée is a good strategy.
5. Preparation is key
You’re a guest at the restaurant so communicating your needs and wants to a helpful staff is what we should expect. If the waiter or waitress seems like it’s a hassle, that is not good service. You might have to mention with a smile that you are on a special diet, and that might ease their lack of understanding.
Some good questions to ask your server is how the food is prepared, sometimes a simple dish such as chicken and vegetables can have many hidden oils, salt, and sauces you didn’t know about. Having this knowledge will allow you to ask for adjustments about how you want the meal to be prepared.
Opt for cooking methods that include steaming, broiling, baking, roasting, over frying. Even when they’re baked or roasted ask for olive oil to be the main oil used and for a minimal amount — healthy fats and olive oil are great, but the amount still matters. Sugars are also a hidden factor that can really add the pounds to your physique, so be very mindful of that ingredient too.
Restaurants tend to use more oils, salt, and seasonings to boost flavor so ask them what they use. Then you’ll be able to ask for those items on the side so you can control the amount you would like to use.
6. Share your meal
Not only is this a fun and engaging way to connect with your friends or group you’re with, but it’s also a great way to help you with portion control.
The portions given at restaurants in the US is significantly more than most healthy adults would need in one sitting — sometimes it’s at least four times as much.
Part of navigating point #5 and #6 is asking your server about how large the portions are or discreetly look around at other people’s meals to get an idea. This way you will know if you might want to ask your partner if they want to split a meal.
7. Ask For A Box
Option two from the hack of sharing your meal is to ask for a take-out box as soon as you place your order.
Now, I know this might seem like you’re really jumping ahead, but this can be a great strategy for you to use if you routinely belong to the “clean plate club”.
I’m guilty of this, I was raised in a Midwest household where we were encouraged to eat everything on the plate because food left on it, was wasteful. It’s no wonder why my reaction stems from this childhood behavior, and if you feel this way too, just add this tool to your kit!
Once you order your meal, especially if it’s a large portion, simply divide the plate into what you’ll eat during one sitting and everything else will go into the box. Simple as that.
You’ll enjoy leftovers the next day, share them with a co-worker, or give them to your partner who needs a quick lunch.
8. Pause In Between Bites
If you’re familiar with mindful eating habits then this hack will probably come naturally to you. If not, here’s a simple way to eat healthy while dining out.
In between each bite you take of your meal, casually place your fork or utensil down on the plate or bowl and rest until you’ve fully chewed your bite before going back for more.
This action will help you pace yourself. Having pauses in between each bite will not only help you build more mind-body awareness (hunger and fullness), but it will also keep you present at the moment spending time with those around you and how that may impact your eating behavior.
9. Order A Salad First
Remember the hack about filling your plate with vegetables? Well, this hack of ordering your salad first double as a fiber-rich addition to your meal and also as a way to skip the bread.
Bread can be part of a healthy diet, but when it comes to filling up on the most nutrient-dense foods, vegetables win.
Order your salads with the dressing on the side and opt for dressings that are olive oil based. If you’re a purist, try asking for olive oil and vinegar to make your own tableside!
10. Limit Cream Sauces
Cream sauces are loaded with, you guessed it, cream. Cream, heavy milk, and butter aren’t bad foods, but when you’re trying to improve your health while eating out these should be kept to a minimum if at all depending on your goals.
It’s easy to spot cream sauces, just look for the ingredients and when in doubt, ask your server exactly how it’s prepared.
Otherwise, when ordering meals that come with sauces look for ones that are tomato based or vegetable-broth based.
11. Ask For Dressings On The Side
Did you know a serving of dressing is about two tablespoons? Most restaurants will double that amount to coat the vegetables in a salad and boost the flavor.
Not only that, toppings such as croutons, cheese, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, almonds, cheese, etc. can add up to be more calorically dense than cream-based pasta.
When you order a salad or a meal with several toppings on the list, then just ask for everything on the side so you can pick and choose what you add to it.
12. Stick To Simple Beverages
If you’re looking to hydrate or sip on a drink, go for water. If that’s not a fulfilling option for you, then make sure alcoholic drinks aren’t mixed with simple syrups, limit or avoid soda which is pure sugar and not in line with improving one’s health.
13. Skip The Dessert
Desserts can be as much if not more calories than the meal itself. If dessert is something you really want and have a healthy relationship with food, then enjoy it. But if eating dessert will result in you not feeling well or emotional feelings come up about guilt or the urge to make up for it tomorrow, then skip dessert.
Skipping dessert can also open the door for healthier habits like getting home earlier to wind-down and enjoy an evening routine for better sleep, drinking hot tea to find calm, or reading a book as part of your self-care routine.
14. Vegetable and Protein Combo
When in doubt, look for something on the menu that’s rich in vegetables and protein. This is a great combination for better blood sugar balance, which can help regulate your hunger hormones, how full you feel, your energy, digestion, and
This may be easier said than done for some, but this truly is a philosophy and a lens you can apply to situations like these. Think about the enjoyment factor when you’re eating out.
Remember the context of your entire day and your entire diet as a whole. If you’re consistently eating a healthy diet and engaging in healthy lifestyle practices, then more often than not, enjoying a meal wholeheartedly may actually be good for your mental and emotional health!
Food is so much more than just nourishing our body on a cellular level, it’s also about pleasure, enjoying moments with loved ones, and socializing — and that’s okay too.
What’s your biggest challenge with eating out? Do you have any hacks you would add to this list? Share below or tag me in a photo on Instagram the next time you eat a meal out with one of these healthy eating hacks!