Eating healthy is not an easy feat for some and to do so while dining out can be challenging. Sometimes dining out is planned ahead of time and others times, not. In this article, I’m going to provide you with several ways of how to eat healthy when dining out. It’s a challenge many of us face and I believe these powerful tips will be part of the solution if not “the solution”.
Preview the Menu Before Hand
When you already know where you’re dining, preview the menu online before you go. My wife and I do this all the time, especially since my family is vegan and I’m not. It prevents wasting time and money as well. By knowing your options, you can better plan. If there is not much healthy food available, perhaps this particular meal you can eat whatever you want but all the other meals that day have to healthy.
Eat Before You Go
Before going, eat some food beforehand. Definitely do this if where you’re going has no healthy option to choose from. Eat until you’re about 50% full before dining out. Let this meal be a nutrient-dense meal or food that sticks. I suggest it be a meal with a fair amount of protein and/or fiber to help with satiation. An example would be to eat grilled chicken thigh with brown rice or bean burrito an hour or two before dining out. This way, by the time you arrive at the restaurant you won’t be as hungry or as tempted to eat with your eyes.
Ask for Modifications
Ask the waiter if your meal can be modified. I know you may feel like you’re going to be a headache but you’re paying for it and it’s their job to provide good customer service. The majority of the time from my experience, the cooks don’t mind making modifications. If you still feel bad about it, leave a little extra on the tip. An example of a healthy modification would be to swap out an unhealthy side for a healthier one or to remove the buns from a burger.
Have someone with you that is more disciplined than you go with you or ask someone who is able to hold you accountable despite not having the same goal in mind. You could simply write some notes on a piece of paper to give to them while out to help them keep you in check. You may end up inspiring them.
Drink a glass of water before you eat your meal, this can help by possibly preventing you from overeating. Also, drink water as your beverage for your meal or at least allow it to be the main beverage while dining out. What I mean by this is, you can have a glass of wine, juice, or a beer but let anything else you decide to drink be water. Allow water to be consumed mostly.
Go for Color
Your plate should not be predominantly one color. Aim for a plate filled with color or at least add some sides to add color. By having a variety of colors on your plate, more than likely you’re eating a variety of different foods that supply different nutrients. No one color should cover your entire plate. I know fried foods taste good but do your best not to let the entire outing consist of it. Allow your appetizers to at least be colorful.
Take Some Home
Remember you paid for your food so you get to do with it what you want, which also means you don’t have to eat it all. Forget the “clean your plate club”, it’s not healthy. Take what you couldn’t eat back home with you. If you don’t want to take it home, that’s fine too, leave it there. Don’t feel bad about not eating all your food because your parents’ guilt shamed you when you were younger. Although they meant no harm, it’s not a healthy relationship to have with food.
If you’re going to partake in the sweets and fried foods, minimize the amount you eat by sharing it with others. You don’t have to eat everything that’s brought out to you. Now, I know this may be frowned upon in some establishments but not all of them. Some places actually do respect the fact that it is your hard-earned money and you do whatever you want with the food you’re paying for as you see fit since you give them business.
Stick with Appetizers or Sides
Keep your meal on the smaller side of things by making the appetizers your meal instead. There is no requirement that you buy an actual entree. Places have caught on to the fact that customers don’t always want the foods included in a meal on the menu so some give their customers the option to build a meal instead.
Check the Menu’s within the Menu
There are menu’s within the menu. Check for the menu that is catered toward calorie awareness or more health-conscious. We know obesity is a problem and something needs to be done and the FDA did by providing guidelines and requirements for nutrition labeling on menus for certain types of establishments. Some restaurants meet this requirement by placing the number of calories next to a meal in the menu and/or dedicate a portion of their menu toward healthier options. Check for that menu first and choose food off there as a first option.
Pick the Restaurant
If you have the option to choose where to dine, pick a restaurant that has healthy options to choose from or is known to be health-conscious. This way you don’t feel as much pressure or worry since that’s what the establishment is known for. You’ll have the ability to pick meals more freely without guilt.
Slow down when eating, there is no need to rush. Actually taste the food that you’re eating. Don’t mindlessly consume your food. Allow time for your brain to register information and your body to realize when it’s satisfied. You want properly digest the food you’re eating. Swallowing chunks of food not broken down properly puts unnecessary stress on the digestive system.
When dining out, eating food doesn’t have to be the main purpose. Being there to socialize mainly is a great way to eat healthy when dining out because it can take your mind off the food. This can be a double edge sword but when done mindfully, it can work out great. Pairing this tip with eating before you go out, splitting a meal, or only eating an appetizer is a good strategy.
Set a Budget and Pay in Cash
This is the frugalness coming out in me but set a dollar amount in what you can spend on a meal. This is an excellent way to set boundaries on yourself although it may not be for everyone. This tactic is used by many who want better control of their finances. Perhaps you tend to overeat at times or eat with your eyes just to end up not eating all the food. Bring in cash how much you can spend on food to help set a limit on how much food you can buy.
In theory, the less money you have to spend the more conscious you’ll be about how you spend it. Doing this with health in mind will help you to spend wisely and choose a meal that gives you the most bang for your buck. Finally, you’ll learn to cherish every bite hopefully. I know when I was short on money and bought a meal or got a hold of something I rarely could get, I made sure to cherish it to the max.
As shown above, there are plenty of ways to eat healthy when dining out. If you feel you can’t remember all that you read, bookmark or save this in your phone right now so you can refer to it when you’re about to dine out. Stay in control and reach your goals of eating healthier.
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Remember the goal is to make eating healthy a lifestyle not some grueling task you force yourself to do. Ease into and still enjoy life. Have your sweets and fried food every once in a while until you get a better grasp of your diet. Being healthy is not just what you eat but how you live. Enjoy the time dining out with family, friends, and co-workers. Just be mindful of what take in and be in control.
Be Healthy, Be Balanced, Be You