I get it.
Eating healthy all the time is hard. Sooner or later you are going to end up at a restaurant with friends and family.
Just how many social events can you turn down. Eating is such a “social thing”. Think about it. Going out with friends, watching a movie, holiday festivities, New Year’s, Thanksgiving….the list goes on.
They all have one thing in common: food.
Eating has become such a huge pillar of social event, without it the event itself would be dull and boring. Can you imagine going to a party with no food? It would be terrible!
I don’t know about you, but most of the time when I go out for dinner parties, the thing I look most forward to is the food!
I guess that’s what makes it so hard sometimes to stay on track with healthy eating. Sometimes, things are beyond your control and it’s tempting to just give in.
Wouldn’t you agree?
But instead of saying:
“Oh well, screw this diet. I’ll just eat this. Who am I kidding!?”
“All my hard work is ruined, I just can’t do it!”
“Dieting is just not for me”
“I’ve already gone off track, so I may as well quit now”
Social event and dining out don’t have to be so bad. There are ways of dining out without coming out of it worse off than you were before.
I want to share with you 20 ways for you to stay healthy while dining out. I’ve created a printable checklist for you to download also. Just click the button and enter your name and email below to get the checklist.
1) Check out the menu online in advance
Most restaurants post their menus online, so you can already check them out in advance. The descriptions tell you the ingredients and how the dish is prepared. Some restaurants also include the total calorie count of each dish.
2) Ask how the dish is cooked
If you are not satisfied with the menu description, call the restaurant. Ask them how the dish is cooked. This way, you can avoid ordering dishes that are cooked using unhealthy spices, oils and other taste enhancers.
3) Be wary of attractive descriptions
Restaurants will tempt you to order unhealthy dishes with attractive names. Avoid ordering dishes described as follows:
A popular descriptive used in Chinese restaurants is “savory”. Watch out! “Savory” dishes may contain a lot of salt or MSG.
Source: Market Watch
4) Check out the lighter dishes in the menu
Most restaurants have a menu section for lighter, healthier dishes. List the names of these dishes down. This way, you won’t need to go through the menu at the restaurant all over again.
5) Watch out for those so-called “low carb” dishes
You may be tempted to order those so-called “low carb” dishes. While these dishes may be low in carbohydrates, they may contain higher amounts of fats and salt to make the dish tastier. Again, inquire about how the dish is cooked before deciding on ordering it.
6) Ask about cooking oils
If you will be ordering some fried dishes, ask the restaurant beforehand what cooking oils they use. Because they need to keep up with the large amounts of orders, restaurants use cheaper, unhealthy oils like vegetable or canola oil.
Ask if the restaurant has healthier, alternative cooking oils like olive or coconut oil or grass fed butter. Then again, some restaurants will say that they have alternatives but they will still cook your food in unhealthy oils. If unsure, it is still best to skip fried dishes entirely.
7) Eat a healthy meal before going to the restaurant
I know it may seem like a weird idea, why on Earth would you eat before going to a restaurant?
Many people make the mistake of starving themselves prior to dining out. The problem is if you are very hungry, you build up a huge appetite so that you tend to eat more.
Make it a point to eat a healthy meal beforehand. Eat a light, healthy snack to curb the hunger pangs. Great pre-dine out snacks include a cup of yogurt, a light salad, or a piece of fruit.
8) Be the first to order
Don’t wait for everyone else to order first. Don’t let them order for you as well.
This way, you won’t end up tempted to eat what others may order. If you order first, it won’t matter if everyone else orders fancy-sounding dishes. You know that your order has already been made, and most importantly, you are happy with it.
9) Resist bread baskets and chips
While your food is being prepared, waiters may serve bread baskets and chips with fattening sauces and dips. These foods count as extra calories. If you are dining alone, you can ask the waiter to take them away. But if you are with others, pass the bread and chips to your friends instead.
10) Beware of salad extras
As healthy as a salad is, beware of the extras that will pack your salad with a lot of calories. Skip creamy dressings, cheese, croutons and bacon or ham bits. To make it tastier, add some fruit bits or raw, chopped nuts.
11) Make your appetizer your main course if possible
Appetizers are packed with calories that they can serve as the main course. Aside from being healthier, they are also cheaper the dishes in the menu. If you feel, however, that the appetizer may not be filling, order a salad as well.
12) Keep your meals simple
Do not order dishes that come with extra sauces, toppings or sides. Keep your meals to their simplest forms. If the dish is to be served with a sauce, request the chef or waiter to put just a little sauce to give it taste.
13) Customize your dishes
Most restaurants have photos of their dishes in the menu. If you don’t like your dish to be loaded with sauces or dressings, have the chef remove them or just put very little to give it taste. When given a choice of sides and all of them are fattening, always order a separate salad instead.
14) Chew your food slowly
One of the bad habits we develop as a result of a hectic lifestyle is eating extremely fast. We run short on time, deadlines, assignments, work on top of work.
The little time we do have to eat leaves us trying to eat as quickly as possible.
Change this habit by consciously teaching your brain to chew slowly. The brain registers a full stomach at 20 minutes of eating. To give the brain enough time to process your eating, chew your food slowly and savor the taste. Chewing your food well also aids in digestion.
15) Always pick a salad
Always order a salad as an appetizer. A salad is healthy and filling so that you feel full before you even get to the main course.
16) Avoid alcohol
A study in the American Psychological Association (APA) journal Health Psychology showed that
“alcoholic beverages stimulate the appetite while lowering your self-control, so that you are unable to resist food cravings”.
If you are on a diet, it is best to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages altogether. It is bad enough that they are packed with calories; you don’t need these same drinks cause food cravings and leave you to eat more.
17) Order water
While many nutritionists recommend that you should take healthy fruits or vegetable juices, it is not advisable if you have just eaten a calorie-packed meal. Ask your waiter to bring you water instead. It will not only keep you hydrated, it will also aid your body in absorbing nutrients in the food you ate much faster.
18) Don’t eat dessert
If your waiter or your friends ask you about dessert, just say no!
Remember that you’ve just eaten a full meal. You don’t need the extra calories from desserts. Some of these desserts have more than 1000 calories! Incredible.
19) Ask for a take-home bag
If you are unable to finish your meal because you are feeling full, ask your waiter for a take-home bag or box.
Forcing yourself to eat a heavy meal has no benefit to you. Don’t force yourself to finish the plate as often restaurants serve more food than a single serving size.
You also have to consider those extra calories.
Here’s what you should do instead.
If you are served a large meal, place the food that you cannot eat in a take home bag before you start eating. That way, you won’t unintentionally eat more than you realise. Because us humans are bad at predicting how much we eat, we usually underestimate.
Don’t be fooled, reduce your plate size before eating and take the rest home for leftovers.
You could always eat first and then place the leftovers in a bag for later. But again, it is hard to estimate how much we eat once the food is in front of us. We tend to eat with our eyes, unfortunately.
20) Consider walking home
After dining out, consider walking home instead of taking a cab. If you have brought your car, walk off those excess calories for 30 minutes to an hour before driving home. Walking will not only burn off the calories, it will also speed up digestion so that you feel less full.
If you try implementing these tips when dining out, I am sure you’ll find yourself feeling less guilty about what you eat.
I believe in finding that balance, that lets you enjoy life whilst still maintaining a balanced healthy lifestyle.
Eating healthy doesn’t need to be hard, sometimes we just need to embrace certain situations and be careful not to overdo it when we are in “tough” situations.