Be smart when eating out!
Karen Sherwood, NC, HHP
Let’s face it, dining out is a big part of life. The good news is, you don’t have to put your nutrition on hold when you go to a restaurant. It doesn’t have to be difficult to eat what you like and maintain, or even continue to lose weight. Just keep these tips in mind when you dine out:
Don’t skip meals earlier in the day to “save up” for the evening. It’s way too easy to overeat when you’re hungry.
Look for key words on the menu: “roasted”, “grilled”, “poached”, “steamed”. These terms usually mean they were prepared without extra fat or a large amount of calories. It is still always helpful to ask your server exactly how the food is prepared. Don’t be afraid to make substitutions.
On that same note, stay away from items that are “fried”, “smothered”, “sautéed”, “covered”, etc. Obviously, these are less healthy items that can easily have twice the calories of the steamed versions.
Enjoy the dining experience. Take your time, eat slowly, and enjoy the social side of eating. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register that you’re full. We consume a lot less calories when we eat slower. It is also easier on the digestive system.
Remember to choose a blend of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats at each meal. One large bowl of pasta with cream sauce is not the best way to go. Add chicken and veggies, switch to a red sauce, scale back the amount of pasta and you’ve got a great meal.
Ask for dressings and sauces to be put on the side. That way, you can decide how much to use. Remember, a little goes a long way!
Take home at least half of your meal. Most restaurant portions are enough for 3 meals so there’s no need to clean that plate! It is even advised that you get the takeout box when the food arrives and put half of your meal in right away. Portion control is the single most important thing to practice in a restaurant. It will save you more calories than you know.
Let’s say you dine out about once a week. Allow yourself one “exciting item” whether it be a glass of wine, soda, or small piece of cake. Remembering moderation is always key to avoid overindulgence later.
On average, Americans eat over 200 meals away from home each year. Remember these tips when dining out. By making small changes over time, you can enjoy restaurant food without sacrificing good nutrition.