That's why I've compiled tips over the years to help me stick to my healthy eating while still enjoying the restaurant atmosphere. I hope these suggestions help you "eat out and eat right," just like they do for me. :)
1) Don't eat out when starved. If you're really hungry when you get to a restaurant, you're more likely to overeat. So I like to grab a bag of carrots or eat an apple before I meet my friends for dinner so that I'm better able to keep my cool when making healthy choices.
2) Don't fill up on bread. Though the warm, fluffy bread they leave on the table pre-meal smells scrumptious, you must use those self-control muscles and try to skip this appetizer. But if it's just too good to avoid, go ahead and indulge, but don't use butter or oil, which is where the calories can really add up. And be sure to try and stick to one slice only.
3) Don't stuff yourself. In America, we have this ever-present idea that we need to eat everything on our plate. Not true! I actually always try to only finish half of my meal, considering the portions they give you when you eat out are generally abnormally large when considering healthy portion sizes. So while you're at the restaurant, be sure to be hyper-aware of your fullness level... Eat slowly, savor every bite and when you feel full, flag your server down for a take out box.
4) Salad before soup. Soup from most restaurants are generally high in salt and also in calories, so I always go for the salad instead. You can't go wrong with fresh lettuce and veggies. But if you really have a hankering for soup, always avoid cream-based varieties and stick to broth-based.
5) Ditch the dressing. I hate the unpredictability of the calorie count in most restaurant dressings. So instead, I ask for a side of lemons and balsamic vinegar (no oil) and I use that as my dressing. And for a little added flavor, you can ask for the light Italian and very lightly (less than a teaspoon) sprinkle it on top for a bit more flavor.
6) Water, water, water! That's all I can say here... avoid pop and drink water. Plus, the more water you drink, you will feel fuller more quickly. But if you would like something with a bit more flavor and zest, order a soda water (zero calories and zero artificial sweeteners) and put extra lime. It's very cool and refreshing.
7) Pace yourself. Take your time when you're eating. This also helps the fullness factor. If you eat too quickly, your body will take longer to tell you when you're actually full and this often results in over-eating.
8) Ask for a takeout box when you sit down. If you know that you're in a hurry and you don't have much time, then don't even tempt yourself... ask for a takeout box from the server when you order your food. When the plate arrives at the table, pack half of it away right off the bat. Then you won't be tempted.
9) Keep the alcohol in check. Though we all like to get a little tipsy sometimes, don't overdue it. When you drink, your appetite becomes stimulated, which will cause you to actually eat more. Plus, alcohol actually dehydrates your body and causes it to clamp on to the fat in your body. And don't even get me started on the calories... Here are a few drinks that are my two "go to's."
- I like to order a vodka and water (I know it sounds strange, but if you get a better brand of vodka, it's really good) with extra lime. It's very refreshing and low in calories.
- Simply order a glass of wine and savor it throughout your meal.
I have so many more tricks and tips that I could share with you that really get into the specifics of how to healthily eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner... but I think we'll start with the basics for now.
The most important thing that I hope you take away from this is that it's important to always remember that the key to eating out is making smart choices and moderation. As long as you're always trying to be creative with your meal and are always searching for ways to stick to a healthy, balanced diet, you will find a way to make it happen, even when you eat out. You have to want it to make it reality.
And moderation is key, of course, because overindulgence can cause us to overeat and possibly cause us to feel guilty for our choices. We don't want that!
So I hope these tips were helpful to you as you embark on your dinner plans this weekend. And hey... if you do have an extra glass of wine or a bit of cheesecake after dinner, don't sweat it! Just remember, you're going to sweat extra at the gym in the morning to make up for it. :)