For the longest time, I am pretty sure restaurant eating was my downfall. The portions are often way too big, the dishes are way too salty or oily, and the food caused me to give up my “healthy eating plan.” Here are a couple tips to stay healthier at a restaurant:
1. Don’t make it fried.
Too often I was really craving a burger but not the fries. I would order the burger and eat the fries anyway, gaining an extra 400-500 calories, when I didn’t even really enjoy the fries. Now when I go out, unless I have been craving fries for weeks, I substitute a side with a veggie like black beans, broccoli, green beans, etc. Try to avoid anything fried if it is not something you truly are hungry for.
2. Don’t let the salad fool you.
Most restaurant salads are actually worse for you than the popular entrees. Naively I would get salads thinking, this is healthy AND delicious… when in reality, it was just delicious. Beware of salads with cheese, croutons, tortilla strips, and excessive nuts. Also, beware of dressing. Anything white and creamy is probably a terrible decision. Ranch, bleu cheese, and caesar are NEVER the best options. Opt for a vinaigrette , balsamic, or light Italian dressing.
3. Don’t be afraid to customize.
If you have to be the customer who asks too many questions, do it.
Does the potato come loaded with butter? Yes? Ask for it on the side or not at all.
Is my food sauteed or seared? Sauteed is usually code for cooked in lots of oil, adding calories fast.
Does your entree have lots of sauces? Cream based sauces versus wine or oil based will add up the wrong kinds of fat and calories.
Can I substitute the fries for a veggie? Okay, make it happen!
4. Ask the waiter for a box immediately.
In almost all restaurants, the waiter will even have half of the entree boxed before it is ever put on the plate in front of you. Taking half home lessens calories, fat, and unnecessary food intake. I see it two ways: 1) You now have two meals. 2) If you truly get hungry later, you can have a snack, but if you don’t get hungry, you won big time.
5. Go in with a game plan.
I am known for researching restaurant calories before I even get to the restaurant! If you know where you’re headed, DO SOME RESEARCH. You will quickly find that the seemingly “healthy” dishes are loaded with calories. Go in with a pretty good idea of what you will order, and stick to it! Once I started researching the nutrient components of restaurant dishes, it is AMAZING what I will not eat when I go out. Burger with 100+ grams of fat… no thanks!
One of my go-to resources for restaurant info is Eat This Not That by Dave Zinczenko. You find an abundance of knowledge here!
Eat out with a game plan this week. It’s quite empowering conquering a restaurant menu, actually.