Eating out at restaurants can be a challenge when you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet. With so many tempting dishes and large portions, it can be difficult to make the right choices. However, with a little planning and knowledge, you can still enjoy a delicious meal while staying on track with your health goals. In this guide, we’ll share some tips and tricks for choosing healthy meals at restaurants.
Research Before You Go
Before you head to a restaurant, it’s a good idea to do some research to see what options are available. Many restaurants now offer their menus online, so you can check out the options in advance. Look for dishes that are lower in calories, fat, and sodium, and that contain plenty of vegetables and lean protein. You can also read reviews of the restaurant to see what others have to say about the food and service.
Another helpful tool for researching healthy options at restaurants is to use a nutrition app or website, such as MyFitnessPal or HealthyOut. These resources can help you find dishes that fit within your dietary goals and track your nutrient intake throughout the day.
Don’t be afraid to make substitutions or ask for modifications to your dish. Many restaurants are happy to accommodate dietary requests. For example, you can ask for your dish to be served without cheese, or for the sauce to be served on the side. You can also ask for a side salad or steamed vegetables instead of fries or mashed potatoes.
Another helpful substitution is to ask for whole-grain bread instead of white bread. Many restaurants now offer this option, which can help increase the fiber and nutrient content of your meal. And if you’re watching your sodium intake, ask for the chef to go easy on the salt or to leave it out altogether.
Remember that making small modifications to your dish can go a long way in reducing the calorie and fat content of your meal. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for what you need to make your meal healthier.
Portion sizes at restaurants can be huge, often much larger than what you would serve yourself at home. To avoid overeating, consider sharing a dish with a friend or taking half of your meal home for leftovers. You can also ask the waiter to bring a to-go box with your meal so you can immediately pack up half of it before even starting to eat. This way, you can enjoy a satisfying meal while also keeping your calorie intake in check.
Another helpful tip for managing portions is to avoid the “all-you-can-eat” options, such as buffets or unlimited bread baskets. Stick to ordering one dish and avoid ordering multiple courses, such as appetizers, entrees, and desserts. If you do want to indulge in a dessert, consider splitting it with a friend or ordering a smaller portion.
Here are a few additional tips for choosing healthy meals at restaurants:
- Choose water or unsweetened iced tea as your beverage
- Avoid sugary cocktails, sodas, and sweetened teas
- Be mindful of condiments, such as salad dressings, sauces, and dips, which can be high in calories and fat
- Consider starting your meal with a salad or broth-based soup to help fill you up and decrease your appetite for higher-calorie dishes
- Avoid “bottomless” bread baskets or chip bowls, as these can add hundreds of extra calories to your meal
Eating out at restaurants doesn’t have to mean abandoning your healthy eating habits. By doing some research, navigating the menu, making substitutions, managing portions, and following a few additional tips, you can choose healthy meals that are both delicious and nutritious. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for modifications to your dish, and remember that small changes can add up to big results. With a little planning and knowledge, you can enjoy dining out while still making healthy choices.